Monday, April 11, 2011

Lasting Appeal

A good game is a good game forever

The above quote comes from a post written by fellow blogger and good friend Michelle Baldwin which discussed her recent disdain with the pace that this industry travels at, and the incessant focus everybody has on playing the newest and brightest game. It’s a feeling I can understand because I too struggle to keep up and because I am, quite frankly, sick of the always looking forward mentality that permeates the medium. Furthermore, the above quote resonates with me because of how straight to the point and honest it is: a good game is good forever, and nothing will ever change that.

It also stands out to me because it correlates with some feelings I have been having lately. There’s no denying that over my time blogging I have expressed frustration: firstly, with myself for taking on far too many games and overwhelming myself in the process; secondly to a disconnect with fellow gamers and their seemingly always looking forward mentality; and, finally, with the emphasis on shooting, combat and violence in general that our medium has become synonymous with. Whatever the reason for my frustrations, a core theme applied throughout: the way I feel does not appear to be the way the majority of gamers feel, leaving me with the implication that I’m out of the loop.

But I’m not. Like many gamers, I’m fully engaged with the medium and what takes place within it. I’m aware of news as it breaks, I look forward to upcoming games with as much anticipation as others and -- despite my desire to slow down and focus on individual games a little more closely -- I still buy games as they release much to the detriment of my backlog. I’m informed, I’m keeping up and, therefore, I have the capacity to be a part of the conversation -- something that gamers, hardcore in particular, seem to want to be involved with, even if they won’t readily admit it. So why do I feel excluded, and why should I care anyway?

Those are questions I’ve been asking myself lately and pondering even more. Videogames as a medium are moving along so fast -- exacerbated by the aforementioned looking forward mentality, as well as the incredible pace with which things continue to evolve -- that it’s easy to want to keep up and see where the unknown will lead. But that act is exhaustive and frankly, unnecessary, because what we have now and what we got in the past are just as good, if not better, than what may come in the future. No one seems interested in stopping, taking a breath and looking at what’s in front of them. Nobody seems to care that Super Mario Galaxy, a game that released in 2007, still has a lot to say about the status of the platformer genre, or where Mario as a franchise currently sits. In some respects, why should they? That game has a sequel and practically everything else does these days too. But that attitude, that approach to the medium where only the current -- which gets forgotten about once the next big thing arrives -- and future matter, is dangerous and is one I wish would change. It won’t, however, because we as gamers and the industry who caters to us won’t let it. But I can change and it’s something I’ve been attempting ever since I wanted to chew my food (that analogy still resonates with me, all these years later) way back in early 2009. Thinking about my current gaming situation and how, for example, I only just recently played Mass Effect 2 and finished Red Dead Redemption (many months after their release), suggests that I’m finally reaching a position where that change is starting to bear fruit. With each day that passes I find myself contemplating what I have rather than what is to come. 2011, like every year, is set to bring us some absolute delights but personally, I’m more interested in the pleasures that still sit on my shelf. Instead of buying the 20-plus games that I’m attracted to this year, I’m settling on buying just four (I hope). This doesn’t mean anything to any of you who may be reading this, but to me it’s cathartic in the sense that, I’m playing games on my terms and refuse to be influenced by my friends or, indeed, the industry as a whole. I think it’s great that Portal 2 is coming out this month, wonderful that there’s a new Zelda game on the way, and excited about what E3 may bring (particularly after last year), but I can be enthusiastic about these things whilst ensuring that I’m not being pressured by them, and that’s a crucial thing that I had to personally realise.

This post doesn’t really have a meaning and contains me mostly just rambling, but they are thoughts that have been boiling for some time and it feels wonderful to finally get them out. A good game is a good game forever and time, pressure or a desire to keep up should not dictate the way in which we engage the medium we love. If we are truly passionate about videogames in all forms, their age will not matter: we will still read about them because they mean something to us. As a writer, I will still write about them because they mean something to me. Together, their release should be the farthest thing from our mind because we’ll be so engrossed in our passion that it simply won’t mean a thing.


Scott Juster said...

Hey, I try to talk about Mario every chance I get; I'm only one man! ;-)

Like you, I think that Galaxy and (Galaxy 2) are under-analyzed, despite being highly acclaimed. It's amazing how much innovative design is packed into those games. Like you say, people tend to churn and burn when it comes to new games being released.

However, in the interest of dissenting opinions, have you read Gus Mastrapa's latest piece?

Steven O'Dell said...

Scott -- Grr, I had just finished typing up a decent comment and Blogger swallowed it whole. What a shame.

Essentially the things I said were how you are practically the only person who has covered Mario Galaxy in any real depth, even though you were joking when you mentioned it. That saddens me to realise that, but what's worse is knowing that you, I or anyone else who does actually care, will always be in the minority. There's just too much excitement in the future -- partially inspired by the media and marketing which drum up such incredible hype -- for the past to be worth considering, and that's disappointing.

As for Gus' article, beyond the initial awe of the Wii Remote's reveal and joyeous delight when first using it in Wii Sports, I think I'd agree that the console didn't really surprise us in the ways we may have been expecting. Mario Galaxy is the exception, obviously, but even then its innovations were more to do with perspective and spatial positioning than anything else, so only those who actually looked for it would notice it.

Which brings us back to the original topic: no one is willing to look for it, seemingly, so its forgotten about while something like L.A. Noire's facial technology gets all the love. A shame, then.

Oh and I should point out that Mario was only an example -- there's plenty more games that deserve the attention but won't actually get it.

TrevHead said...

(moving onto page :D)

Personally I think the internet and how easy it is to find out about news games and watch video footage is a big factor in overwhealming gamers. Plus the fact that there are so many more quality games been released compared to the past with so many been multi platform as well. Maybe a way to stop feeling overwhelmed its to try and limit ourselves in finding out the details of every promising new game comming to the market. I suppose a way of doing so is to buy games that have been out for longer then 6 months so that the hype machine has moved on and we can cherry pick the best of the bunch. (If i think about it its kind of what im doing atm as i dont pay full price for my games instead wait a while for the price to drop.

Moving onto what you wrote about the fact that the industry is ignoring Mario Galaxy and what new aspects it brought to the platforming genre. I think it is tied up in the high costs of the making games and how risk adverse the major publishers are atm (who are the only ppl to bankroll big projects nowadays). It seems to be that the industry has become to dependant on the FPS, 3r person genres and all the existing tools that exist to allow devs to quickly churn out FPS game after FPS.

AAA grade games of other genres are becoming increasinly rare and niche as more and more medium sized / budget devs become rare aswell. Basically everyone is finding there own little style of making games and sticking to it.