With titles like Tearaway, Legend Of Zelda: A Link between Worlds, Super Mario 3D World, and Peggle 2 (among others), it feels like we're seeing the industry slowly turning away from the grim and gritty nature of games that have filled the industry for the past several years. Even titles that have traditionally been darker, like the Assassin's Creed series, seem to be going for a lighter tone (as is evidenced by AC 4: Black Flag with its care-free swashbuckling tone).
With the start of the previous console generation, it quickly became evident that titles that were lighter in tone were, for whatever reason, not selling as many copies as those that were dark and gritty in nature. Titles like Kameo and Bajo Kazooie: Nuts And Bolts floundered, while Condemned, Call of Duty 2, Rainbow Six, and Ghost Recon flourished. Once Gears of War dropped, the entire gaming landscape began to change. Soon enough, we were in a modern Dark Age of gaming, where hues of brown and gray filled every game, only to be broken by sharp shades of red as you emptied clip after clip into whoever the bad guy du-jour was. While the Wii launched amidst all of this, it's appeal wasn't in the light-hearted core gaming experience it was offering (because, with the exception of select titles like Super Mario Galaxy, it wasn't), but in offering something new and kitschy to casual and family gamers.
The modern Dark Age was crystallized into a single moment with the release of Modern Warfare 2. The "No Russian" level of the game put players square in the middle of a terrorist attack. While the player didn't have to directly interact with what was happening on screen, the impact was felt no less. This single moment in gaming put everything that had been going on at that time into context: as technically amazing as games were, and as entertaining as they were to play, the concepts of "fun" and "charm" had no place.
Eventually things reached a critical mass of sorts, somewhere around late last year, stretching over into the first half of this year- games were getting too dark and violent, and gamers and journalists alike were reaching their limits. Titles like Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed 3, The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, and others were all marketed largely based on the huge amounts of violence and bloodshed they contained. While most of those titles had artistic merits in addition to the blood and guts, those weren't the elements that were being pushed in ad campaigns across the country. It was around this past summer that a noticeable shift was starting to happen-- people were beginning to question if the games they were playing needed to be as violent as they were.
So, here we are at the start of a new console generation, and heading into a new year. Things are looking up, as titles coming out within the next six months seem to be more balanced; there are still shooters and gritty third-person-action titles, but there also looks to be more titles out there that rely less on the darker elements, and more on fun and occasional light-hearted humor. As a fan of both violent games and more enjoyable games, I look forward to having more of a balance. All that means is there will be more to choose from out on the market, and that's never a bad thing.