There seems to be a lot of conversations going around about gaming fatigue. FPS games are everywhere and in all forms. Genre's are melding and muddying the waters to a point that everything kind of feels like an Action-RPG-FPS-Strategy-Tactical-Fantasy-Military-Shooter (ARFSTFM). It's difficult for consumers to pick through the noise and find something that appeals to them. An overwhelming sense of sameness has been taking effect for quite some time. There are plenty of fingers to point at, the stretched console cycle, the proliferation of Unreal Engine going uncontested, the ripple effects of games like Call of Duty, Gears of War, God of War, even the budgets and the risks that investors are willing to take in a deflated economy. I can't help but wonder where the breaking point is, or what developers will do when we get there. Some might argue that we've already passed it, but things can certainly get much worse still.
James Bond: Symptom or Disease?
I recently read an article on GameInformer.com that asked the question, "How Can We Fix James Bond?" after an abysmal review of 4/10 was rewarded to the poorly received game. Though I haven't played the game myself, I can see where some of the concern is coming from. The film persona of James Bond is a smooth talker, a man who generally only pulls his gun in maybe the last act of any movie. He is a winner with the lady-spies and uses them to get the information he needs; often mixing business with pleasure. The video games unfortunately boil down an entire experience centered around the last act of every Bond film.
Admittedly most Bond games have followed a similar formula, but it feels like he is not alone anymore. This generation had some strong starts but that fatigue for these kinds of (misguided) experiences is starting to dig deep and I hope that it doesn't burn consumers out to the point of no return.
The Revolution is Near?
Over time it seems that we have this love-hate relationship with games. As we charge into the 3D era there was a backlash that begged for more 2D games. As we reach the saturation point for FPS games, there is a revolution of indie side scrolling games. As graphics and visual fidelity continue to climb into the hyper-real, we find more and more people creating pixel-art games as their own form of revolt.
Though the mainstream video games in large part seem to continue on the Hollywood path, there always seems to be a group of people who long for the old days. It's hard to say if that group is large enough to support a company, or willing enough to actually pay for those games. Still, it is encouraging to see that a mainstream path is not the definitive answer; albeit the more profitable one in most cases.
I can't say that the revolution is near, I think it has always been here. It is rare to see one of these rebellious parties become a disruption to the industry but it is a welcome change to see it happen. The only unfortunate side effect of disrupting the industry is that it quickly becomes a part of the machine once again. Minecraft is a perfect example of this. The once indie game that chugged along is now a part of every game, DLC pack, and internet meme. It is the source of countless clones that have overrun marketplaces like Xbox LIVE Indie Games and its mechanics are now being integrated into every mainstream video game. Soon crafting in the latest ARFSTFM game will be as common as face stabbings, bow and arrows, disembodied voices that solve the puzzles for you, and everyone's best friend Follow.
Play To Win
The Minecraft scenario is exactly why the revolution is a constant battle. Each and every victory helps to push the industry forward, but it quickly becomes part of the norm. This obsessive need to amaze an entire generation who has seen everything is truly an impossible task, but I'm glad that it doesn't stop developers from at least trying. There is an old saying, "You have to play to win." In trying, we know that things will get better. The breaking point in games seems to be more of a roller coaster, an analog range of severity, not a singularity where all hope is lost if we cross that line. Things are pretty bad right now but I can't help but continue to think that something big is just around the next bend. Naive? Probably.