Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Why The Games Industry Is Like An Un-evolved Pokémon

I wrote this last month for Forces Of Geek and have only just had a chance to upload it on here. I hope you enjoy it, I'd certainly be interested in what you think about the future of gaming. So, get in touch in the comments section!


Video games of our childhood, no, of our infancy were incredibly simplistic what we would now call puzzle games. However, as the hardware and design and game mechanics evolved an evolutionary step was taken and the highest selling games such as Pong and Pac-man were replaced with more complex 2D side scrollers, fighters and racing games.

The next evolutionary step came with 3D. I'm not talking games because the very first one of those was on the Sinclair ZX81 in 1971 and was called 3D Monster Maze, rather I mean 3D in the game engine sense, the rise of first person shooters and such.


Wolfenstein - where else could you fight Hitler in a mech-suit?
Wolfenstein and other first person shooters filled my teenage years and I would spend hours playing them. Some were technically 2D engines layered cleverly to give the illusion of 3D, Doom is an example of this but it paved the way for 3D engines and led to Id Software creating their first actual 3D engine title, Quake.

Then began a long slow process in converting popular franchises, formats and genres into a 3D environment.

Despite how popular earlier games like Doom, Wolfenstein and Quake were (and other less known pioneering titles that came before them) media attention was awarded to the successful 3D-ising of Mario in Super Mario 64 and thus, games continued being adapted in this vein, with new titles incorporating better graphics and visuals due to their updated game engines.


Super Mario 64 
Nowadays, the popular new format is HD or layered versions of old formats such as the rise and re-emergence of the 2D scroller and arcade style games (Limbo, Little Big Planet, Minecraft etc.), it's evident from this that we love to revel in nostalgia (I know I do!) but where do we go from there?

What is the next step? Video game manufacturers would have us believe that synchronising our televisions and social media and bank accounts and shopping lists and maybe even our bathroom sink is the next step. Other manufacturers believe motion control and audio recognition is the future. 

The problem is these are merely gimmicks, much like 3D glasses not like the previous evolutionary steps. The game format hasn't really changed (granted Rockband and Dance Central and exercise focused games have utilised these elements but they cannot be applied to everything).

Look familiar? 

How many motion controlled games are there, really?

How many of us have a Kinect sensor or a Wii gathering dust?

I haven't played a motion sensor game in months because the controls aven't been utilised by any of the games I enjoy, except maybe some voice control elements in Halo Anniversary and Mass Effect 3.

The lack of developers incorporating motion control into their games leads me to the conclusion that it's nothing but a fad. I don't see it as the next step in the gaming world. 

To reiterate my point, the first big development in gaming was expanding the games in terms of visuals and game play and the second evolutionary step did the exact same thing but this applied every single new release. The same cannot be said for games that can be played via Facebook, or require Kinect, a Wii remote or a 3D television.

Before you throw the 3DS as a counter argument, I would launch a pre-emptive strike with the Game Gear. Anyone who would say that the 3DS creates a 3D experience without glasses I would say, to a degree but only in the same way that the Game Gear produced a full colour display over the Game Boy (or rather, it had some colours but Sega wanted to boost sales by claiming superiority over the Game Boy). 

My point is, we are overdue a very big format change. Not in terms of peripherals or add-ons but the way in
which games are played. Not how we play the game or the controllers we use but the game itself. 

With new consoles on the horizon (some would say before the other consoles had reached their maximum potential) a revolutionary type of game is needed or else I fear the lack of progress and innovation (a buzzword I hate using and is far too overused in my opinion) will stunt the industry and stagnate it.

I appreciate that this is a very tall order and my effective complaint is that something new has yet to be invented and not only that, but something which can be utilised and applied to every conceivable
release.

Maybe I just can't see it because I'm too close to it but I worry the games industry is akin to Ash Ketchum's Pikachu. It gets all crazy and electrified over any news about a new release yet acts like a spoilt child when it's asked to take things more seriously or move on much in the same way that Pikachu refuses to evolve into a Richu.

The games industry, like Pikachu, is willing to help you gather other Pokémon (or peripherals) and it will fight for you (and among themselves) with a weird sense of misplaced loyalty. Why doesn't it want to evolve? Well, it chooses not to because it's comfortable and wants to hang out with you and all it's buddies who constantly sing his praise with sycophantic chants of "Yeah! Way to go! You did it! You're Awesome!".

And now with this inflated sense of ego, it carries on doing the same three moves often getting by through sheer luck the majority of the time. Occasionally, it sulks and gets annoyed with the fact that nothing has changed. Yet through an odd sense of nostalgia, it convinces itself that it's happy with life. Even though it lives in a tiny Pokéball leaving it only on occasion to defend its trainer.

I'm tired of fighting battles for the games and consoles I love. I will continue playing them because I enjoy gaming but I'd like get excited for the future and the potential that comes with it instead of settling for the same thing over and over. The games industry needs to evolve and I'd like it to happen soon, after all Pikachu is overrated. 

1 comment:

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