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The “Bad” Evolution of Gaming

August 18, 2010Written by Ray Conley

I’m convinced on this – gaming, in its proper noun form, is a species of life.  It shows characteristics of evolution and adaptable change, something that only a living thing can achieve.  Some games will survive and others will die.  The ones that do survive can only survive if they evolve into a stronger being.  For example, we can study the sound of gaming: from its birth we hear bloops and bleeps; 30 years later, we can be serenaded with the sound of a full orchestra.  In terms of interaction: we used limited keystrokes from a keyboard to move a paddle, and now we involve our whole bodies to have gaming respond to our actions.  You get the picture.  As we can see the tangible progresses in its evolution, there are unfortunately failures as well.  Some of these failures will leave a bitter taste, but given time, perhaps that, too, will evolve out of the system for it to survive.  It must survive.

Ok, enough of the drama.  Simply put, there are good and bad things that we all enjoy, and it’s very subjective.  And for me, the things that I seem to notice are the negatives about it.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy games – I just find it difficult to enjoy my favorite soda with a toothache.  In the end, I’ll just remember it was a painful experience.

Downloadable Content (DLC)

The one thing that has been irking me the most about gaming is this infamous thing known as downloadable content, aka DLC.  I am very, VERY, bitter against it.  Sure, I understand that developers need the extra cash flow to keep up with the ever increasing costs of production, but I thought that’s what the $60 price hike would cover that.  Some DLC can be justified, as it tremendously adds to the playtime of games, but most DLC is just pointless.  Back in the day before consoles were internet friendly, I remember bringing home games from the store and looking at it in awe, wondering what mysteries were hidden inside the shrink-wrapped cardboard box.  Developers, at one time, used to put secrets in games, hidden away gems for gamers to unlock when something unique was achieved (true story).  All additional content was already inside the game and to get it, you would have to be crafty and sometimes play the game to death to unlock the bonus features that came with it.  It was a true reward for the die-hard gamer.  With the advent of DLC, we no longer get cool digital swag for achieving spectacular feats.  Instead, we’ve been gimmicked with “trophies,” which add no inherent value, other than public bragging rights.  Sadly with DLC, if you want unlocked “secrets” for your game, you have to hone the skills of your wallet and show them the money – an evil mafia tactic to frisk the customer for more money.  It’s also more sickening to know that developers are now creating DLC even before a new title has gone gold (a term used to define a game that has been finalized).  Why can’t they put in that extra content as unlockables?!  Where is the fun?!  The only way this for this bully practice to “evolve” out the system is to simply stop buying it.  At $60 a pop for a game, isn’t it expensive enough?  This greed needs to stop.

Rehashed First-Person Shooters

Here is another trend that isn’t so much of an annoyance, but rather boring me to death: FPS.  Yes, there have been some truly awe-inspiring first-person shooters out there that get the job done right (Modern Warfare or Killzone 2, I’m looking at you).  However, it seems that the market is being flooded with FPSs to the point of rehashed material.  After playing so many of them, it starts to feel like a “been there, done that” experience.  And with the steep price of the next-gen titles, I would want to have a unique experience to enjoy, with a broader variety to choose from.  Perhaps, the entertainment medium can only reach so far.  Take a look at Hollywood for example.  They seemed to have run out of fresh ideas to boot the film industry.  As a result, we see remakes of old classics, most of which end up as disasters.  I believe that games have an edge to continue ingenuity though, as movies are a passive experience while gaming involves interactions.  We need more innovative ideas, and not rehashed content, to keep gaming fresh and alive.

Co-Operative Adventure Games

On the multiplayer front, I think we can all agree that the gaming market is severely lacking in hardcore co-operative titles.  I think a huge part of what games fun, is the ability to share an experience with another friend.   Most games that I find memorable, are the ones that allow you to party up with your buddy and explore the world that is set before you to conquer.  That level of interaction can be amazing if done correctly.  Only a few titles on the current consoles have been able to grant me that co-op joy, while the rest are spent in dark solitude of a rehashed FPS.  What I’m hoping to see in the future (hopefully near future) is better focus on co-op experiences, specifically an adventure/RPG title that encourages exploration with a friend, and to make new ones.  Demon Souls almost had it right for me.  They had a co-op mode built into it, but it was limited – you can only do co-op if one character was alive, the other would have to be a spirited “soul.”  And after a boss fight, the “soul” player would be spirited away and the multiplayer session would end.  It would have been better to have had no limitations on the co-op front, and to play side-by-side the whole way through.  I know that some co-op titles are out there and some more are on the way, but there are few that will build that great adventure story that can be reminisced over a camp fire.

Remember that whole evolution spiel I mentioned at the beginning? To tie it together, I really hope that gamers take charge as the consumer and force the industry to evolve in a different direction to keep the business fresh and alive.  How?  Simply vote with your wallet – put money towards the games that really count, not DLC.  If I had my own developer company, there are so many things that I would do differently to cater to the gamer as before in the days prior to DLC.  If the trends in gaming continue to gimmick the gamer as they do with DLC and rehashed ideas, then I firmly believe that gaming will evolve into extinction.