Ten Potentially Controversial Assertions – Gaming Edition


So, a few months back, I did one of these kinds of posts for anime. This time around, gaming is in the crosshairs.

1: Innovation is overrated…

WiiUThe Wii’s motion controls certainly made waves. Big enough waves that Sony jumped on the bandwagon with Playstation Move and Microsoft with Kinect. But one console generation later, Move is nowhere to be found and the Xbox One is now shipping versions that don’t include Kinect. Meanwhile, the WiiU’s touch screen controller is once again making waves, but the console is suffering. The highest-selling Mario games are still the sidescrollers, and despite a decline in quality noted by just about every opinion person in gaming, Call of Duty continues to sell head and shoulders above many other franchises. Why?

Well…

2: …because gamers don’t actually value it.

DreamcastLet’s be real. We live in a world where Sega was run out of the console market, but Nintendo continues to dominate it. We live in a world where gamers will clamour on and on for “innovation,” but when asked why the Dreamcast failed, will often state that it was “ahead of its time.”

For the people who clamour for innovation, “ahead of its time” should not even be part of the vocabulary. The on-and-on whining about wanting “innovative” games simply isn’t supported by the manner in which people buy games. People are often quicker to drop money on a game in a franchise they know and love than they are to take a chance at a new IP, and I wouldn’t blame them if that mentality wasn’t also accompanied by a hypocritical clamour for innovation.

3: Console vs. PC is a false dichotomy.

PC Master RaceI’ve never understood the “Console versus PC” debate. People portray it like it’s a one-or-the-other thing, but I’ve been gaming on both since I was five. People like to draw lines in the sand about this, and all it’s doing is holding people back. This is both sides, by the way. A lot of console gamers are portraying PC gamers as elitists, while a lot of PC gamers are portraying console gamers as lower-level.

Fact is, there are great games on both platforms.

4: The narrative focus of modern gaming is holding the medium back.

Tomb RaiderTo a certain extent, I feel like we’re still reeling from Roger Ebert refusing to acknowledge videogames as art. Much of the discussion surrounding games for the past few years has been narrative-focused. We’re constantly talking about stories, or characters, or “ludonarrative dissonance,” or how certain elements in the environment, presentation, or narrative or elements relating to narrative (never gameplay) promote sexist or racist themes. Not only that, but the games themselves are changing to focus more on telling stories and not having the gameplay interfere with the storytelling.

We’re trying to get people to believe that games are art by turning games into film, and that’s not the way to go about it. The interactivity is what sets videogames apart from other media, and if we have to sacrifice that to get videogames recognized as art, I’d honestly rather they never be recognized as art.

5: The “AAA” and “Indie” gaming markets are crowding out the stuff in the middle.

As AAA budgets get bigger and bigger, and as the indie scene gets more and more attention, the wealth of games inbetween the two markets is suffering. The “stuff in the middle,” refers to your Armored Cores, Ace Combats, MechWarriors, Xs, and other quality games in more niche genres. They can’t afford to market as much as the AAA scene, nor do they have the mass attention that the indie scene has, so they’re left to languish in the middle, supported by dedicated fanbases for their genres and franchises, but not much more than that.

6: The indie scene isn’t living up to its potential.

BraidWhen the indie scene began to take off, I was pumped. To me, it was the solution to the issue of the AAA market crowding out the midlevel stuff I anticipated that the indie scene could take up the underserved genres and breathe life into them.

When I see indie gaming darlings like Fez, Braid, and The Binding of Isaac, however, I can’t help but feel disappointment. Meanwhile, development on indie space sims like Vega Strike move along slowly and with little fanfare outside of their core audiences and communities. The independent nature of the indie market creates the potential to give new life to underrepresented types of games, but when someone can infinite fame and notoriety by making a puzzle-platformer, I can’t help but feel like that potential has been wasted somewhat.

7: Motions controls were never going to take off.

PSMoveWhen I look at controls, I look for two qualities: How good the controls feel during gameplay (“responsiveness”) and how immersive they allow the game to be (“interface”).

Motion controls, by their very nature, will lack both of these qualities compared to traditional controls, and the attempt to use them as a replacement for traditional controls during the Wii era illustrated this perfectly. By its very nature, a button press will be more responsive than an arm motion.

In addition, their lack of proper interface breaks immersion. For example, a real sword has weight to it, and you run the risk of injuring yourself if you swing it incorrectly. With a wii-remote, however, the lack of weight and lack of feedback facilitates an immersion-breaking experience. This might seem counter-intuitive, but implementation is a big part of why motion controls can’t replace traditional controls. “Closer to real life” isn’t always more immersive. Edging closer to real life in the wrong way can break immersion.

8: We shouldn’t be making difficulty a selling point.

The Souls franchise (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, etc.) made a real big deal of its brutal difficulty. This wasn’t an issue back in the day. The fact that difficulty is a selling point nowadays says a lot about where gaming has come in terms of the importance of challenge. In the arcade days, challenge was a given, but now that the focus has changed, challenge takes a back seat because making sure everyone can experience the whole game has become more important.

9: The modern “console wars” are a farce.

Genesis DoesJust like “console vs. PC” the modern “console wars” are a joke. We’re at a point where most of each console’s library is on the other consoles as well. The only reason to have any kind of brand loyalty to any one console is because that console has the exclusives you want, and even at that, if another console has an exclusive you want, there’s nothing wrong with getting that console, too. Back during even the PS2 era, each console specialized in something. Nintendo will always have their first-party titles, but Sega was always good for arcade ports, the Xbox was the powerhouse machine, and the PS2 (and PlayStation, for that matter) was probably the closest example of the era to today’s standard console: A midlevel machine with a diverse library, though specializing in nothing.

10: Most Let’s Plays are uninteresting.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not someone who needs to be chuckling every moment I’m on the internet. In fact, more often than not, I greatly prefer insight and perspective to humor. As a result, most Let’s Plays have little value to me, because most Let’s Plays are trying to be funny. Give me a Let’s Play-er who plays interesting games, knows a lot about those games, and can give interesting commentary on the games he or she plays and I’ll probably enjoy it a lot more.

So, readers! Agree? Disagree? Have some controversial assertions of your own? Drop a comment!

7 thoughts on “Ten Potentially Controversial Assertions – Gaming Edition

  1. Amen! I agree with a lot of what is said here, particularly in terms of narrative focus and the console wars. I don’t give two shits about those topics.

  2. On the subject of #4, I absolutely agree. Personally, I disagree with the notion that only certain mediums can be “art” and not other certain mediums (I find that an incredibly arrogant statement, to be honest). To me, any medium that can draw from creative thought to tell a story (be it literature, comics, cinema, video games, and so on) is a medium that’s capable of producing what we could come to call “art”. However, the “art” in one medium shouldn’t look like the “art” in another; they’re different mediums, and therefore they have different limits and possibilities to take full advantage of, which is why it’s a problem that the “art” in video games look more like cinema then the potential that actual video games would have. Sure, cinema and video games have similar qualities in which you can see and hear what’s happening, coupled with a soundtrack and art design, but in comparison, cinema is essentially one big linear cut-scene, whereas video games are just that: games, with where you’re in a world you can interact with and maybe even have your actions affect its fate. That area is where we should be considering how to tell a story in a game; gameplay and narrative doesn’t have to be separate elements, and with some work, you can even have gameplay, and the way the player is playing that game, help to tell a story. Personally, I think part of the reason why “art” in video games are looking more like the “art” in cinema is because writers, no matter the medium, want to tell a great story with specific elements and parts, and since people all have different ways of playing a game, the “random factor” of what the player may do go up through the roof, and not all of those elements can get experienced by the player, so there’s a chance the player won’t get the full picture of the super-awesome story the writer was making, and therefore we get this sort of discussion on narrative as a result because people are thinking of how to tell great stories like those from cinema and literature, and not the sort of stories that’d go great with the games we love playing, in which they immerse us further in those games. That’s the potential of “art” in video games, IMO.

  3. A major part in understanding why the Wii U isn’t selling as well as the original Wii, you have to look at who was buying the Wii. Families, casual gamers (even though I hate using that term) and even grandmothers. These people don’t really care for the latest tech so to them their Wii is still fine.

    I haven’t play a game on an actual console in YEARS. My interest in games is mostly stuff from the past but I do look at what’s still coming out.

    Also does anyone else notice the total lack of discussion of the PS4 and the Xbox One anywhere?

    • On the subject of the lack of discussion on the Xbox One and PS4, first I’ll admit to being knee-deep in the Nintendo gaming scene for the better part of the last eight years, so I’ve easily been just as deep in a lot of discussion not involving Microsoft or Sony, but I still heard a great deal of the Xbox 360 and the PS3 in the Nintendo community among those who were fans of the consoles, and in comparison, I haven’t heard all that much on the Xbox One and the PS4 from the same circle of people. My friends and I discussed them often after the E3s they were showcased at, chatting about the potential they had, but other then that, we haven’t talked about them much. I’m not sure whether those people moved on from the consoles or have more faith in Nintendo this generation then the previous generation and gone all-in on the Wii U, but I haven’t gotten that much of a buzz from the Xbox and PS4 crowds like before. It may just be me, but if other people are noticing it, who knows?

  4. Sometimes I think the distinction needs to be made between the various types of let’s plays out there. Specifically how a lot of people tend to mislabel things as LPs when they aren’t. Things like Game Grumps and Yahtzee’s Drown Out series are really more like podcasts with games running in the background in case they run out of things to talk about.

    There’s also a big difference between retarded Pewdiepie shit and stuff like TotalBiscuit or even (if you want a more obscure example) EvilTim. If you haven’t seen EvilTim’s LP of Homefront, it’s a great example of a LP that is occasionally funny but mostly focuses on critiquing the game’s design (bad design) and going into detail about the gun models, vehicle models, geography of the setting, historical accuracy of documents, etc.

    I’ve always made it a point that if/when I ever do Let’s Plays, I need to make sure I actually have things to say about the game or the franchise or whatever. I naturally do a lot of research on bloody everything to begin with anyway.

  5. Sometimes I think the distinction needs to be made between the various types of let’s plays out there. Specifically how a lot of people tend to mislabel things as LPs when they aren’t. Things like Game Grumps and Yahtzee’s Drown Out series are really more like podcasts with games running in the background in case they run out of things to talk about.

    There’s also a big difference between retarded Pewdiepie shit and stuff like TotalBiscuit or even (if you want a more obscure example) EvilTim. If you haven’t seen EvilTim’s LP of Homefront, it’s a great example of a LP that is occasionally funny but mostly focuses on critiquing the game’s design (bad design) and going into detail about the gun models, vehicle models, geography of the setting, historical accuracy of documents, etc.

    I’ve always made it a point that if/when I ever do Let’s Plays, I need to make sure I actually have things to say about the game or the franchise or whatever. I naturally do a lot of research on bloody everything to begin with anyway.

  6. I agree with pretty much everything you stated in this article. Anybody who looks at sales numbers will find that IP’s that are familiar to gamers (Call of Duty, 2D Mario Platformers, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, Madden, ETC) tend to sell a lot better than games that actually do try to innovate and push the industry forward as a whole. I mean the only games I see trying to outdo themselves with each iteration is the Metal Gear, Shenmue, and Batman Arkham IP’s.

    The whole console war in my opinion is nothing more than a dick measuring contest to see who has the better gear. I don’t bother with that shit cause I don’t care. I just get a console/PC if it has the games I want to play and that’s all. However I will admit that this type of competition is a good thing because it inspires competitive people to outdo one another. And that’s good for us.

    Point #4 is one I highly agree with as I subscribe to the belief that gameplay is the most important element in a video game and should take top priority when developing a title. I feel that that’s been a lost art in recent years because of the reasons you just stated. In the end gameplay is what gives a game its longevity, not extra DLC.

    I think point # 4 ties with point #8 since I come from the Atari Gen Era I can testify that a lot of games were harder back then. While I have no problem with easy games, it’s become too focused on the experience of a game and holding a players hand than mastering challenges. This is why I hated the reboot of Devil May Cry titled “DMC: Devil May Cry”. The reward of mastering a game like DMC 3 was the knowledge that you were playing the game on a deeper level. Knowing that you invested a vast amount of time and energy in order to do so. And that feeling is missing from not only the new DMC but modern games as a whole.

    I agree with point # 6 do to the fact that after seeing wonderful games like the Tohou Franchise, Vanguard Princess, Melty Blood, Eternal Fighter Zero, Trouble Witches Neo, Mighty Number 9, Rozenkruez, etc that the indie scene was where its at. However, its then that I start to see mediocre garbage trying to push an agenda like “Emo Quest” or “Gone Home: Lesbo Simulator”.

    I find lets plays to be boring because I don’t care about the idiot’s social life. I came to the video to see the game and let it speak for itself, not to know what your girlfriends farts smell like in the morning. At the end of the day, I make the decision as to whether I think a game is good or not, not someone on the lets play vids telling me its bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *