I think the current state of gaming is ominous.
Let’s go back to the so called golden age of gaming, the Sega vs Nintendo era first. Games were short, and they were hard, oh so fucking hard to keep people gaming. That was the gimmick back then, keep games hard to make them last longer, and it makes the game more fulfilling when you actually do beat it, if you beat it. Honestly it was a good gimmick, hard games are often the most satisfying to beat.
Well, in the future, we were able to make bigger games, so instead of making super hard games, they’d make them fairly hard and longer. Games like this were still satisfying to play.
Now, I talked about how expanded capacity changed games for the better, but here’s other stuff that has changed gaming: pandering to casual audiences, PC modding, dollar aps, the skinner box, free games, and DLC.
PC modding changed gaming for the better. It all started with Doom, people modded that game and now we have the modern PC gaming scene we have today. PC gamers love it, being able to mod games you have or create entirely new games working from other games has driven the PC gaming market.
Now let’s talk about the pandering. It isn’t just the slew of casual games like what mostly plagues Nintendo and the Kinect on 360, but it’s also stuff in other games that just insist on handholding EVERYONE who plays. There have been a lot of games, Nintendo ones in particular that have had their difficulties dumbed down to the point of numbness, and they insist on handholding through everything. I’m looking at games like Super Mario Galaxy, but also at stuff like Fire Emblem 7. (I know how to move my units and attack other units you fucking dummy, anyone with a brain can do that, I don’t need an excessively slow tutorial that tells me how to do every single obvious thing in the game to keep hounding me, I have a fucking manual if I need help)
Dollar aps are a pain for us too, because we now have a massive distraction. It’s cool I suppose that people are making small games all over the world, but it’s become a cash cow now, and has shifted the biggest profits to the fucking iPhone, which isn’t even a gaming console. Now Nintendo has made their Wii U partially imitate the iPad and play stuff like Reversi because of this.
Next comes the Skinner box, the big plague in game design. There was a time when game developers had to focus on quality, where a studio would do best by releasing a game and making sure it’s good enough to convince consumers to buy their next game. With subscription based games and other crap like that, that’s not necessarily the case. Now it’s become in a lot of cases about dragging out play time with cheap quests that take forever. You’ve seen games that just throw in items that take forever to get, or you have to grind until some item or chest gives you a lucky drop. Stuff like this is all over tons of games now and is draining quality from games, especially subscription based games like WoW. Probably one of the worst is when you have to spend money on opening treasure chests and crates and stuff, it’s even lazier and more profitable, entrenching us more in this problem.
Free games are also a bitch, it’s another distraction coupled with the skinner box.
DLC really takes the cake though, it’s what has made its way into run of the mill games, PC games included. DLC used to be the cherry you could put on top of already awesome games, but now it’s become lazy, often where it’s just for the sake of profit with lazy crap or where the DLC completes the game, not tops it off. Fuck, in some games, the DLC is on the disc, but you’re shelling out the Hamiltons for stuff already on the disc. (Fable 2, I’m looking at you) Another one is actual content released that is way too expensive, oftentimes new characters and levels that cost several bucks a pop.
So, now we have free games and dollar aps and DLC and skinner boxes and all these are profitable and they’re a distraction from genuine gaming. Sure, it still exists, but it’s on the backburner now for many developers. Gaming has shifted into being a cash cow rather than an art for many, and we’re at a loss because of it.