Saying something is “not the worst probably” doesn’t sound like a very strong compliment, but please bear with me. Over and over again I have heard the faults of modern gaming echoed. Season passes, DLC, unfinished products, early access abuse, overhyping products, and much more other egregious issues are currently present. These are all valid complaints, and they are major problems with the current gaming climate.
But you know what, let’s be positive for once. Let’s look at the really good parts of this generation.
Growth Isn’t Always Bad
Attempting to pinpoint the value of a massive market like video games with a single number is impossible. Including mobile gaming, it is a $91 billion dollar industry currently, and it is only growing. I only bother to point this out, because there is a stigma behind growth, and that things just become mainstream. Now, this hipster mentality is a problem, but I am more interested in the job market for gaming. And on top of that, I care about the variety of positions available for people. This sounds odd, as video game positions have dropped in availability over time, However, this data is skewed, as it only accounts for developer positions for large companies. It does not consider mobile developers, indie developers, and smaller publishers at all. The growth of the gaming market is a positive with drawbacks, but a positive nonetheless.
Gradual Quality Increase
B-B-But developers release games that are so buggy and just fix it in later patches now! They don’t need to try anymore! This is a strong sentiment, and it does look truthful from a technical standpoint. However, does anybody remember Mad Max and Just Cause 3 from 2015? I sometimes do, but they were mostly forgotten to the passage of time. This wasn’t because they were bad or uninspired, it’s because they weren’t good enough. Mad Max currently sits at a 69 on Metacritic, and Just Cause 3 sits at a 73. Now, going off of Metacritic scores, this is basically a -1/10 and a 1/10 respectively, but looking at the critic’s wordings for these games, their biggest issue was that they did nothing new. They were massive, 40+ hour sandbox games that played it safe. We live in a time when massive games that should take a ton of hours and dedication are pumped out frequently. Massive projects come out fast, and as gaming goes on, there is quality of life improvements all around. We don’t use the six axis to aim grenades in Uncharted anymore. Standards have increased, and being able to impress a gamer is really hard now. It takes something truly special to astonish somebody. Most review scores are trending downward as opposed to the outrageous inclination to throw a 10 at anything in the past. Did you know LittleBigPlanet has a 95 average on Metacritic? This is back in 2008, so it was a novelty. But LittleBigPlanet 3 sits at a 79 average. This game is more or less the same as the first with a few minor improvements and tweaks, but it got treated worse. This is because it was stale and didn’t bother to try anything new. This downward trend is apparent in Call of Duty games as well, As Call of Duty stagnates, people lost interest. People crave new experiences and it is tough to determine what those experiences could be. It is exciting to be the new innovator, but it is also really hard. Stagnating is becoming a less desirable option, and I think gaming could see innovation in the next five years.
VR is lame, but also pretty cool
Passive-aggressive title aside, I think Virtual Reality has massive potential for video games. Specifically, I foresee an innovation in horror games thanks to VR. Horror video games try their hardest to evoke emotions out of the player, and the immediacy and intimacy of a first-person camera can be emphasized through human-controlled head movements. Resident Evil 7 already utilized VR to enhance its gameplay, and it has been universally praised by the gaming community. Indie horror games can also push the hardware and make use of it as well. I know SOMA would have been a much better game if I could use VR to experience it.
Unfortunately, looking up gameplay of a VR game does not do it justice. There are currently not enough system sellers for Virtual Reality to make it a desirable purchase for its lavish cost. However, with interest as massive as it is currently is, Virtual Reality can potentially become a household product.
First Person Shooters are Different
Thank you Overwatch for making a non-military style shooter a massive hit, and screw you Overwatch for setting another standard a lot of people will try to copy for years to come. 2016 was a fairly weak year for video games overall, but nobody can deny the quality of shooters that were released that year. Overwatch, Titanfall 2, DOOM, and Battlefield 1 are the four big highlights, and they are all game of the year contenders. Overwatch is the antithesis to the previous generation’s habits. Rather than a realistic style, it chooses to model itself after modern Pixar movies. Rather than dull, gray colours, it utilizes vibrant cartoonish colours. Rather than realistic guns that all feel very similar, each character is distinct in their weaponry and play style.
Unfortunately, the massive success of Overwatch will spawn clones, and it already has begun to. Much like Call of Duty 4, Overwatch will likely ruin the FPS genre for a few years. I pray that this does not happen, Stagnation was one of the worst aspects of the last generation.
Although I have only played Overwatch, I have glanced at these other games and have observed that they are all really strong. Call of Duty is attempting to stop their habits by going back to World War 2, but we will have to see how that pans out.
I’m a poor college student, so I very rarely buy games full price anymore. Couple that with being Canadian, most AAA video games are 80 dollars upon release. This is an obscene number, and if you factor in DLC, most purchases go into the triple digits. Thankfully, Indie games have been my saviour by providing me great experiences for cheap. It sounds weird, but my favourite part about the Switch currently are its projected indie games. Being able to play these awesome games on transit to work is fantastic, and it fits my lifestyle perfectly. I love that Indie games are expected to be polished, refined experiences that contrast the over-bloatedness of AAA gaming. Many indie games are often throwbacks to retro classics with a modern polish, so they have the snappiness and flow of retro gaming while utilizing modern efficiencies.
It is very easy to be pessimistic about the current gaming state. It often seems that the negatives outshine the positives. This generation has noticably moved slower, and called into the question of a console’s worth as well. However, I know for a fact that my PS4 is one of my favourite consoles because of its utility and vast array of games. The best games of any generation usually don’t come right away, and in this especially fantastic year of 2017, these slew of stellar modern releases is consistent and reliable.