This was originally published at The Edge SUSU on August 25th 2014.
It can be, to a degree, fashionable to despair at the state of modern culture, be it film, music or even the comparatively young medium of video-gaming. Of course it’s all pretty much nonsense. There’s nothing really wrong with any of them that wasn’t wrong a few decades ago. The problems just take on different forms. This goes for all entertainment mediums, including video-games. So let’s take a look at exactly what forms the problems of modern gaming take.
10) Lack of Difficulty
One for the retro squad. Many old-school gamers lament the amelioration of modern gaming. The past was a more challenging time for players, when finishing a title was something of an accomplishment, now it’s worrying if you somehow don’t manage to do it. There are numerous ways in which things have become a little too easy, firstly: save points being all too regular (although this one has it’s advantages in terms of convenience) and probably most obvious of all: regenerative health. Running into the line of fire seems to no longer have any consequences or repercussions.
9) No one else is able to lift a finger.
So this should be familiar. Basically it’s that well worn trope, by which you appear to be the only person in the game-world capable of doing anything. Be it delivering a letter, travelling 5 feet to collect an item or basically winning an entire war. Presumably the intention is to make you feel powerful, like a one man army. The actual effect is closer to making you feel like a pawn surrounded by A.I controlled bafoons, in a script writers master-plan.
8) Invisible Walls
Roaming around an open world: You: “Oh I wonder what’s beyond that hill. Wow this game is huge, there seem to be literally no limitations, I can’t wait to explore what’s just over the horizon… I am- oh …No wait, let me just. Ah. I don’t seem to be able to… hmm…”
Naturally you can’t expect the game to be perpetually expanding, but the boundaries could at least be disguised a little more clearly and convincingly. At least GTA V has the courtesy to have sharks eat you before you go too far.
This extends more broadly to: any boring, personality-free and repetitive environment. Shooter games resort to this most, but other genres are guilty too. RPGS often lose their appeal when they move from the wide open expanses into dark, dull caves or underground environments. The one plus to this is the sense of relief you experience when you finally get back out into the open.
6) Meaningless Choices
Ah, the illusion of free will… Now let me start off with a disclaimer. I am aware that video game programming is no simple, easy feat. So to cater a drastically different experience for gamers, depending upon their own in game decisions is obviously unrealistic. Having said that, at least make some effort to make choices count, or don’t go through the pretense at all. Otherwise it all seems meaningless.
5) On Disc Premium DLC
A pet peeve of many a gamer, this particular “fuck you” to the consumer has become an increasingly frequent occurrence. Pay £60 for a disk. Pay a little more to actually get all the content on it. This is particularly annoying for the parents who then have to pay for the content after their son/daughter has saved to buy the game or for those of us who are struggling students.
4) Escort Missions
Not really symptomatic of just contemporary gaming, this is an age-old bane of players everywhere. It’s not something intrinsic to the nature of the missions per say, it’s more often than not, to do with the ineptitude of the A.I you have to escort as in Resident Evil 4. It’s the kind of irritation that leads to you screaming at the screen like a crazy person.
3) No Local Play
Remember the days of inviting friends over and gaming all night on split screen? Yeah? Wasn’t that great? Good luck with that now. Rare is the game that allows you to sit in the same room as someone and play together without having to take turns. Developers nowadays seem to think that eliminating the human interaction side of multiplayer is the best way to improve it. All those other people just got in the way anyway. Why play with your best buddy sharing a pizza, when you can hurl racist abuse at pre-teen strangers online?
2) Copy and Paste Sequels
Prime example? Call of Duty. In a mad rush to release a new title a year, certain franchises are notorious for bringing out new products with seemingly nothing new to offer. Basically presenting some new locations, maybe a new gimmick, but other than that it’s same old same old. What’s all the more aggravating is that fans continue to buy into it, allowing the complacency to continue.
1) Action-ization of a series and token multiplayer (okay so that’s technically more that one)
These two go together, they’re bad influences upon one another, usually bringing the other one where it is not needed. On one hand there’s unique, different franchises being turned into bland, generic explosion-fests. On the other, online play that has no business being in a game that was clearly designed as a single player experience is now present. Blame COD. If you want a chief culprit of this particular sin, look no further than the Mass Effect franchise. A rich, immersive action-adventure/RPG that slowly morphed into a brainless, linear shooter, betraying everything the original stood for. With the added bonus of pointless multiplayer.
Pretending that games nowadays are no good is evidently ridiculous. There’s lots to embrace. But there’s no denying that these 10 problems do grate and rub consumers up the wrong way. Hopefully the industry will wake up and make some changes eventually… unlikely as that seems.
On a more positive note here’s I can’t wait for:
SIDE NOTE: HOW WRONG I WAS