Surely with a form of entertainment as progressive as video gaming, it can only get better a technology advances? This is a perfectly logical conclusion to come to, with more powerful hardware, a good game should not only be made better, but should be able to do new things. Yet things are not always as they seem. There are a few things that have really been detrimental to this video gaming this generation.

The Media

The non-gaming media has long been a whipping boy for gamers. They used to think that we were confined in the basement, addicted to a heroine like pass-time known as gaming, which, among other dangerous side effects, would mean the user is incapable of any social interaction. Yet now we see video gaming treated with a little more understanding in the mainstream media. Okay, so a lot of it is gimmicky stories about elderly people playing wii sports, but this is a sign that gaming is beginning to be taken more seriously.

You see, while wii sports may be what we now call a casual game, and chances are the elderly people playing it are casual gamers, there's one important thing the media has finally cottoned onto. Playing video games is fun. Yeah, they could be talking about the philosophical musings of Bioshock. But ask yourself why do you play games? Is it solely for art, or is it for fun? The media has gone from seeing video gaming as a useless pass time, to a valid if shallow pastime that is fun. It's not perfect, but it's one hell of a huge first step.

Of course this is a good thing, but our reaction to it as gamers is not. Talking about a casual game is apparently not enough, the media is expected to make a quantum leap, and go from putting video games in the waste of time bracket, to the same bracket as the Mona Lisa. But this is simply unrealistic, all forms of expression take a long time to be accepted by the greater culture, and not all are, yet gaming looks like it may just make it, which is surely a good thing.

Then there's the other side of the media. Let me introduce the Video Game Journalist. Though predominately based on the internet they do not follow the internet's golden role: whysoserious? Why a video game journalist is called a video game journalist, instead of, oh I dunno, a critic? Is beyond me. Their main hook is to critique video games, which surely makes them a critic. But, as they go to the odd video game convention where unreleased video games can be played, they somehow think they're better than the mere critic. Now why do I bring this up? Video game journalists have obviously been around longer than this generation. Well, the reason is simple, this was the generation they started to act like the over competitive, spoiled brats that real journalists are.

A critic named Jeff Gerstmann reviewed a certain game called Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, and gave it the "Fair" score of 6.0/10. The problem was that CNET (his employers) were currently running a rather extensive advertising campaign for the fair game in question. Eidos, the people paying CNET for the web space to advertise the game on, were not happy with Jeff's review, and in a melodramatic fit that Glenn Milne would be proud of, Jeff left GS, eventually taking half their editorial team with him.

The Video Game Media lost its innocence, and became part of the greater media. It was clear to everyone that due to the large amount of faith placed in the critic's, publishers were going to try and take advantage of that, and with this came a false sense of power and importance, and the video game journalists truly did go from critic to journalist. No longer were they just reviewers, they were an endangered species that must have their journalistic rights protected at all costs.

Ironically this was the same generation that these hallowed gentlemen succumbed to a nasty little thing called hype. Hype is simply the pre-conceived expectations of the gaming community, or the marketing claims made by a developer, that are generally founded in anything but fact. But thankfully simple logic used to prevail in the Video Game journalist, Fable being a great example. It was hyped by Molyneux as being something truly revolutionary, but he delivered a very strong action RPG, that disappointed many because it did not revolutionise the action RPG genre. The journalist themselves of course saw the quality of the game, and it was well received. They took the game on its merits, and ignored any false promises the developer might have made, or the expectations of the community.

Yet this generation, the journalists' opinion seems to mirror its readers to a disturbing degree. This may stem from a new crowd pleasing philosophy. When was the last time a game that garnered a reasonable level of hype flopped? The last I can think of is Audiosurf, but its following was not especially large. Since then we've seen GTA4 and MGS4 both get 10s, and ridiculously positive reviews. Now that the dust has settled, the former is looked upon as far less innovative as previously thought, and certainly far from perfect. Of course, that's not to say hype can go the other way. Too Human is perhaps a good example of hype turning the other way, and resulting in a lower score than the game itself may actually merit.

The Community

With the release of the Nintendo wii the gaming community as a whole decided that they didn't want gaming to evolve after all, and rallied against Nintendo's new console. This resulted in definition of both Hardcore Game and Hardcore Gamer, to change drastically. No longer were games like Halo considered casual, as they were enjoyed by a large proportion of the formerly casual, and now hardcore, gaming community. These games that they so enjoyed had to be given the hardcore label. Now a label in itself isn't necessarily such a bad thing, yet it seemed to inflate the already almost bursting ego of the average internet user.

With the community's want to further itself from Nintendo's new direction, forumites everywhere searched endlessly for coming innovations that were more than a new control interface. Sadly they rarely found it. Games like Alone in the Dark, and Assassin's Creed were touted as the true innovators of this generation. Which in the case of the former was kind of hilarious.

Which brings me to my next point, as well as the media taking themselves far more seriously, so did the gamers. A "fun" game was no longer enough, if it had any whiff of the derivative, or didn't do anything new gameplay wise, no matter how fun, the game was ripped apart. From Assassin's Creed to Bioshock, many games found themselves mercilessly degraded by gamers everywhere who were disappointed to find that not every game innovated. Of course, a need for innovation is healthy and necessary, yet these are the same people who bought the game instead of something that was possibly more innovative.

I must admit some of these problems aren't only related to this generation, but the irrational war between casual and hardcore, will go down in history as one of the stupidest things the community has ever gone through (and that's saying something). When our children (and with casual gaming you lot might have a chance with a member of the opposite sex now) look back on gaming's history they will laugh at us for spitting in the face of innovation. Hell, they'll be ashamed we didn't want to share gaming with more people. I know I am.

The Games and the Two Consoles

Two? Yep, you see this was the generation we saw the death of the exclusive. While this could be seen as a good thing (the more people who can experience a game the better, huh?) it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Look at the PS3's library, and look at the 360's. There is very little difference, why would you care which one you got, when both offer an almost identical library, and an incredibly similar experience? Of course they do have their few exclusives—well except for the 360, unless you count timed exclusives of course. You see the few exclusives the 360 does have, inevitably appear on the forgotten platform, the PC, and those that don't are simply available on the PS3. Sadly the only console with a different library is the wii, and while hardcore propaganda aimed at its library is vastly exaggerated, there is an ounce of truth to it. There's no doubt there's not a large variety to its library, or a deep sea of AAA content.

With the 360 launching a whole year before both the wii and the PS3 there was no question it was rushed. This probably resulted in the console having an alleged 30% chance of failing completely. Eventually Microsoft did do the right thing and consumers were given a safer warranty, but what other product would consumers accept that has a 30% chance of failing through no fault of their own? Hell, if a game was released with problems half as big this there would be a massive outcry on the net about it being released unfinished and buggy, still they'd probably buy it anyway. Of course the last generation wasn't without its problems, the PS2 suffered from disc read errors, and before that everybody knows that cartridges weren't anything if temperamental. But none of those problems were quite as big as a console has a 30% chance of completely failing.

The PS3 and wii's early life didn't start off much better. The decision for Sony to focus largely on the format war meant that the PS3 was released to an absolutely ridiculous price of $1000, a price which when compared to the wii, $400, and the 360, $650, could hardly be justified unless you were after a blu-ray player. But both the wii and the PS3 suffered from one other major problem at launch. A vast lack of games. The wii had Zelda and that was pretty much it, and the PS3 had… well it didn't really have anything. Of course launches are usually a hard time when it comes to games, regardless of the generation. But in the case of the PS3 it took a hell of a lot of time for the trickle of games to improve, and MGS4 is really its first and only killer app.

In the case of the wii things are actually a little better, there's always been a trickle of interesting titles that offered an experience you were unlikely to find on either the other consoles or the PC. Yet, games like Endless Ocean were virtually ignored by the gaming community. Surely hardcore gamers should be interested in niche titles? But this doesn't tell the whole story, apart from the trickle of inventive games, the wii's library was full of quick cash-in crap. You could say that this is due to everybody focusing on the PS3 and 360 due to not predicting the wii's phenomenal success, yet you listen to devs, and look at the games being announced, and you'll see that very few are giving it a serious chance. Hell, they don't seem to think their games will sell on the console, despite its high software attach rate, and record breaking sales. And for a console that is twice as powerful as the Game Cube, it really boggles the mind that so few games on it actually look better than the games on its predecessor.

Finally, consoles seem to be turning into mini-PCs. Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it makes the consoles a great media centre (though not in the case of the wii), and gives it a better interface, and online gaming, yet it brings with it some of the problems the PC suffers, that one tries to avoid when buying a console. Not only are there completely unnecessary firmware updates that you must endure (and in the case of the PS3, one even broke the console), the PS3 also forces you to install some games before you can play them. Yes, you haveto install a game on a freaking console just so you can play it!

Then we come to the games themselves, we've already established that the wii and the PS3 needs more, but what we haven't established is the complete lack of gameplay evolution this generation. One of the first supposedly innovative games was Oblivion. Yet, if you played Morrowind, you would find that not only was it far more in depth, the world was far bigger too. How is it then that Morrowind was so much bigger and complex? Oblivion was merely a more accessible Morrowind. Yes it was polished, bet it was hardly innovative. Then there's GTA4, okay sure, the supposed innovations were more in the storytelling side of things than the gameplay side, but take a look at GTA 3 on the PS2 and compare it to GTA2… okay that's probably an unfair comparison, it made the huge leap from 2d to 3d, but in a generational leap, surely GTA4 could have done something a little more impressive on a technical level? Now I'm not saying it's not a large improvement over, say SA, but the key point is it makes a whole lot of minor improvements, so you're essentially playing a very similar, albeit technically superior game.

No, the ironic thing here is, that the games that d innovate when it came to gameplay, are found on the wii, or the PSN, or XBL Arcade, hell even the DS. All mediums where making a game simply technically impressive wasn't on the highest list of priorities. In fact due to the lower budgets (not necessarily in the case of the wii or the DS, though the lack of processing power may have a similar effect) means that they have to do something that really was innovative or creative and interesting to be noticed.

Ironically, while the hardcore gamers cried and moaned over the wii, the once hardcore genres like Rainbow Six were made "accessible", i.e. casual. In the case of Rainbow Six I must admit this started last generation, but when I heard the news that they might be making Operation Flashpoint "accessible" I shed a tear. What was once a magnificent FPSer that was far more realistic than any you've played this gen, may be made into another fluorescent pop shooter. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's sad to see a once realistic FPSer made into a bit of casual fun. Before you say this is hypocritical, what with me bashing the wii haters let me make two things clear. Firstly I'm well aware of the contradiction (unlike the hardcore gamers), and secondly there's a large difference. There are still the hardcore gamer's definition of hardcore games available, yet the hardcore games of old are dieing out, and the community as a whole doesn't seem to care.

Perhaps in what eclipses even Microsoft's failure rate, PC publishers started using a nasty little thing called DRM in earnest. This was nothing entirely new, but its use is almost widespread now, and EA recently announced that all their games would use it. So what's so bad about DRM? Well, it means you can only install the copy of the game that you paid for in full, a limited number of times, after which you must ring up the publisher and get down on your knees and beg for them to let you install it again. Of course, if the publisher goes bust, and you've used up all your games, then your copy is completely worthless. Not only that, but they generally install (without informing you) an irremovable file in the registry, which quite frankly can be described as malware. To make matters worse, a virus can hide in such files, and be undetectable and un-removable by anti-virus software.

Sadly the consoles aren't free of the unscrupulous some publishers can show. Though this isn't as big a slap to the consumer's face, the phasing out of local multiplayer is a sad money grabbing exercise. With the periodic removal of local multiplayer, to play multiplayer with your friend, they have to buy a copy of the game, and in the case of the Xbox 360 they also have to shell out for Xbox live. This means that not only more copies of a single game are sold, just so that people can play it with their friends, but that they also have to shell out money to play the game online. It's a sad state of affairs, but it doesn't look like it'll stop any time soon.

And perhaps the worst and most worrying of all is the monopolisation of the industry. As budget demands go up and up, smaller developers and publishes will struggle to survive, which means that it will make it far easier for juggernauts to buy them out. Thank god for the low budget, downloadable, indie game!

The Conclusion

And so we've come to the end, it might seem like it's all doom and gloom, but it isn't. The generation is at best only halfway through, and it's looking less and less likely that we'll be following the same five year cycle, so we could be using the same hardware for some time yet. So there's not only a lot of room for improvement, there's a lot of time to improve! So here's to the future!

Posted by Foolz Sun, 21 Sep 2008 07:19:41 (comments: 11)
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Sun, 21 Sep 2008 08:05:41
Very Good Article and I agree with you on a lot of points.

It's like I've said before publishers need to wake up an realize what is going on.

They have 4 systems (PS3/360 as one) that contain a healthy hardware and software sales to release games on. Yet they still follow similar release patterns of the 90's.

In reality though I think this is due to the publishers just not being big enough to do this. I personally think that this "console war" is getting to big for its own good.

Something needs to change. And personally I think that it has to be the very way the industry works. Think about it besides the PC you have companies forcing you to make games on a certain specs and expectations. Want pretty graphics? Then you have to go with the PS3/360. If the game is simple? Too bad nothing else can do it. Want a SNES styled RPG? Then the DS is your main. You don't like touch screens or want it to be on a handheld? Tough. Want to make a game that looks and is powered with last generation tech? Okay the Wii then. You don't like motion controls? Oh well.

I know it sounds silly but seriously think about it it IS pretty ridiculous. If one thing needs to change it is how the very market works. I know that different types of platforms will always exist however I wouldn't be surprised if this whole "console maker" thing goes away in the coming years.
Sun, 21 Sep 2008 08:15:19
Fuck art!
Fuck Gaming journalists!
Fuck the so called hard core gamer!
Fuck the people that ignored niche games!

Fuck them all up the butt!
Sun, 21 Sep 2008 17:46:58
Excellent article touches on a lot of issues of this gen. Its been such a weird gen with some crazy hardware issues, stupidly insane prices, companies trying to rape us with downloads, all that stuff. BUT the games have been really damn good this gen so I can't complain. Any smart informed gamer can move around the bullshit and just enjoy the fantastic games that have come out.
Sun, 21 Sep 2008 18:24:57
^^^Agreed. As a WHOLE (meaning including consoles, PC, and handhelds) this generation is far superior then the previous generation IMO.
Sun, 21 Sep 2008 19:35:38
Good read, foolz.

IMO, this gen kind of sucks. There's a lot of good things going on, but there's also a ton of bad stuff too. So far, this gen has been the least fun console gen I have experianced yet, and I've been playing games since 1980! The whole Casual vs. Hardcore nonsense has sucked a lot of the fun out of this gen.
Mon, 22 Sep 2008 10:27:20
Media also cottons onto games that have health benefits, brain age, wii fit for instance as well. It's a more positive image which strongly goes against their "videgames=bad" mantra of old.

Hype is BS, I've seen so many overated games it's abominable. They can't all be 10s.

Tue, 23 Sep 2008 06:39:57
I love buttsecks!

Thanks! Happy

Tecnical it has to be! Nyaa


But teh Godfather storiez! T_T
Wed, 24 Sep 2008 17:02:15
What was that review about GTA IV?

"I now know what it was like watching the godfather for the first time"

What the...?
Wed, 24 Sep 2008 23:16:51
Yeah I said it before. The Game Informer review. Search it on google.
Thu, 25 Sep 2008 08:05:46
He could've just watched The Godfather...
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