I’m starting to feel more like the gaming market is getting staler after every game release. I look at trailers and I get excited, sure, but it’s not often from mainstream companies. Valve’s been slow, which does make sense in a way considering they’re probably quite comfortable with profits from Steam and because their company layout is built on quality, not quantity. EA and all the companies under its wing(Bioware, Crytek, Maxis) haven’t made me want to shell out money for a long time and I feel they have less of an excuse. Activision is probably going to get some of my money for Black Ops 2 on account of doing the odd games I do in my custom lobby streams every Friday, but beyond that they don’t generate much else that I can think of off the top of my head. I’m debating my interest in Borderlands 2, as I didn’t get too into the first game but I have many friends interested in snatching the sequel. Most of my favorite games nowadays range from the Shelf Life games I have played and plan to play to the more indie-style developers and creative mainstream companies.
Good games just don’t seem to be coming to the surface. I know there are tons of games out there, but it just feels like nothing I can truly love in a game is being pushed forth. Shooters smother the market in overrealistic graphics or a futuristic sci-fi setting. The last original idea for anything resembling a shooter was Zeno Clash, and that was probably because the majority of the game wasn’t a shooter at all and because they actually looked for a new setting other than Earth in the present or some planet(including Earth) in the future. Every story seems to revolve around a stale forward-marching plot. Halo suffers from this, and I can admit it despite having enjoyed the games since I finally got an Xbox to play through the buggers.
What am I getting at with all this? Well, I’m putting this out as a request to all the game companies out there. I want you to inspire me. Not just that; I want you to give me something NEW! I don’t want rehash after rehash of everything. And, in all honesty, I DON’T want the sequel to your already-big series unless you’re going to set it somewhere new and interesting in the same universe. I’m getting tired of seeing the same characters plastered on every site. I want you to give me new stories! Give me new characters in new worlds with new conflicts and new ways to deal with them.
I’m no retro gamer, but I sometimes wish I was. All of the older franchises from Nintendo were imaginative in their limitations. Mario was a fun idea, and to many people still is a fun idea. I mean, who else would have considered a plumber saving a princess from walking mushrooms with death touch in a kingdom populated by turtle people? Link brought unique storytelling to his games throughout the classics and the newer games, and even though I’ve never been a big fan of playing the games I have always been able to admire the worlds crafted throughout every Legend of Zelda game. After all, they’re all different; there’s no contunity, forcing them to always play with a new place for Link to beat things up.
As of late, only two game trailers have truly caught my eye and given me the sense of happiness I want from a game. The first of the two is Deponia, an adventure game set in an imaginative trashland planet that is available boxed or over digital distribution. The story follows Rufus, who is venturing off on what is described as a very odd love story. The world and the art, the character designs, and the concept of the game all fit very well into what I was looking for. It’s something where a game isn’t just a representation of our world. It’s unique, original, and wants to be unrealistic.
The other game is Papo & Yo, a PSN exclusive game set to release this year. It’s a cute story of a young child who lives in a very beautiful and vibrant world. He is forced to use various odd and imaginative game elements to traverse puzzles, using such things as a toy with rocket-propelled feet as a jet pack and picking up cardboard boxes to move large buildings around as platforms. The world isn’t paved with color, but it’s certainly not lacking and, most importantly of all for me, it thinks of something different than what is possible in our world.
Imagination is a strong problem I see in games in this day and age. You may disagree with me, sure, but what I see as imaginative is dwindling daily in the field. On top of gameplay becoming rehash after rehash and no new stories coming out of big-name developers, I have another issue with modern games.
Branching story paths.
What is he saying? Branching story paths are bad? No. They aren’t. They give players a sense of power over the world, and often lead to hilarity in many games where the branching options are so vast that the engine can’t always keep track of everything.
So what’s my point? I’ll explain, as you’re obviously expecting since you’re still reading this far. In my perspective, games shouldn’t only be a form of mindless distraction. They should be utilized as a proper form of storytelling, on par with books, comics, and movies. When it comes to branching paths, I understand the enjoyment in them of making your own stories. Sadly, that takes away from the creator’s ability to directly state a story for the reader.
Let’s take Skyrim for example. You make your character how you see fit and play how you want. The world is filled with rich lore, tons of books that have stories and concepts written in them, and many engaging characters to talk to. When I play it, I feel a sense of ownership. There are flaws to the storytelling in this, though. The biggest is that a single, unbroken story is not easily told through this form of game. My character is just an extension of me.
I want to see more linear stories set in imaginative worlds. Why linear? I want linearity for the pure sake of establishing a love for a character presented to me by the game’s creator. I want that character’s story to be intertwined with a new world full of fresh ideas that I had not considered. And I want to feel that I’m letting them down every time I die. Branching paths, even with a preset character, often leave me feeling like I’m not playing as that character. I’m playing as myself in that character’s skin. Every time I choose, I feel like the protagonist is just a shell of what they could be. What if their character wouldn’t have been my always-nice-guy character, but instead acted like a complete jerk to that woman?
Steambot Chronicles and Persona 4 are two recent games that have made me feel this. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy them both to death. The problem is that I just can’t connect with the protagonists. Vanilla from Steambot Chronicles was completely at my mercy in decisions, and thus I prevented him from ever being a complete dick to Connie and giving her away to the bandits or of refusing to give her mother the necessary medicine he got from Doctor Nutmeg.
The protagonist of Persona 4 was annoying in a different way. They let me choose his name entirely. When I played I gave him one of the accepted canon names, but it still felt wrong that I had to name him. The plot of Persona 4 was a lot more linear, but I just couldn’t connect because I always made him phrase things the way I wanted to. Even that broke him for me.
I don’t know. Coming to the end of this, I just feel like I’m spilling too many different arguments on this document. You can agree or disagree with anything I say, as is human nature. Regardless, I know that the only games I will find that meet my imaginative standards for a while now will be from indie developers and those rare companies that stretch beyond their borders. Bioshock Infinite is a hope for me in mainstream games, but I have to wait ’til next year to see what that brings around.
Oh well. I’m still gonna keep working on Persona 4. Just because it’s not my perfect story doesn’t mean it isn’t brilliant, right?