Written by Ryan Johnson Wednesday, 18 April 2012 16:00
This is a Best Of article, which originally appeared on December 22, 2010.
So, here we are nearing another end of the year. I'm sitting here thinking of what games to put in the "Game of the Year" article, when I suddenly realize that most of the games I am playing this year are from LAST year. Not because I am uninterested in this year, nor because I haven't been able to purchase games this year. It's a matter of TIME, the one resource we can't do anything about. If we want to get a game and have no money, we can do extra chores, sell old things we are uninterested in, do an hour or two of overtime...but even those things end up eating up our time. A clock only has 24 hours in a day, no matter how you slice it.
I've also been debating when to finally get a PS3. I've been satisfied with my Xbox 360 and Wii this whole time, but eventually I want a Blu-Ray Player and some of the Sony exclusives. Then I start thinking: How many hours are people saying it takes to get through Metal Gear Solid 4? God of War III? UNCHARTED? These are just a few of the myriad of exclusive games out there right now, demanding the hours that can only be divided up so many ways, not counting new games for the systems I already own.
On top of that, the push for "superior" gaming constantly (and needlessly, I feel) is pushing toward more expense. I remember having a great deal of fun with Pitfall! on my Atari 2600, but that wasn't a $60 game.
On the original Nintendo, there were a few pricey games, but most of my games landed me in the $20 range. Now, with games getting blockbuster movie-level budgets, the cost goes on to the consumer. When a new system comes out and retails at over half of one thousand dollars (main reason I haven't gotten a PS3 right there, regardless of price drops), it tells me that companies are pushing the envelope a bit too far.
I feel independent developers are right where the gaming industry as a whole needs to be. They put out bite-sized chunks of a game, sometimes more innovative than big companies are putting out, at reasonable prices. The video game industry crashed in the 80s around the fabled E.T., but it really was faltering when so many consumers had bought into the idea of games, then the quality suffered, and the market crashed as the investments outweighed the returns. We could see another crash right here: as mega companies keep making games that demand not only a larger chunk of your average gamer's wallet, they also require a huge chunk of your time. Only so many big-budget games can come out at one time, because even if you can afford to buy them all, you have to sleep SOMEtime.
If you look back at the original Nintendo, you may have a ton of games that are "must have" games, but an expert can defeat a good deal of them in one sitting. Most of that is due to technology, but also replay value is prominent in them. How many times have you booted up Super Mario Bros. to go save the Princess....again... yet if you play a modern game and don't save for an hour then die, it feels like a frustration and a chore to get back to the place you were? (this first hit me with Final Fantasy VII). It is often said, "if you make your hobby your job, you'll never work a day in your life." Yet, I feel, if you make your hobby your job, you will start losing interest in your hobby. Too many games these days are just flat out work, random activities cobbled together to hold your interest, rather than a game that is so fun you WANT to play it again.
How did we get here, though? I feel it's that "carrot and stick" mentality, where you can always stretch a bit more, never getting that reward of "perfect gaming." Just as your computer is obsolete before you unpack it at home, game developers have regularly pushed the envelope. This is good for gaming, but could also have a backlash. More tech means more money, means more expensive consoles, means more expensive games...eventually this is gonna drive people out of the hobby, which means...MORE expensive games......CRAAAAAASSHHHHH!!!!!
Now, I admit, I'm on a bit of a soap box here. But I feel strongly that we don't need new gaming systems right now. I'm so happy that Sony and Microsoft jumped on the motion bandwagon, not for the motion games, but for the industry delay. This will allow developers to create games at a better value with existing technology and hopefully convince the Big Three to make consoles later down the line with tech that at that time will be less expensive on the consumers, and easier for the developers to work with. I'd also like to see the bar lowered for game expectations, as well. For example, I know MGS is Kojima's masterwork, but perhaps the storyline could have been cut in half (c'mon, we've had cliffhangers in the past) and sold for a smaller price. Then he could give us the rest, even then with better technology. It's not like any Metal GearHead would have NOT bought Episode 2. Then, our budgets could have appeared more manageable, both in time and money.
I LOVE the quality of work that the big developers are putting out. But right now I'm trying to get through Final Fantasy XIII, Batman Arkham Asylum, James Bond 007: Blood Stone, GoldenEye, and a few others simultaneously, though...and I'm getting a bit lost. If I ever got burnt out, and decided to stop buying for a while, it may not affect the industry much. But if it happened en masse, I'd hate to see what would happen to our hobby. Eventually, no matter how excited I am about a release, no matter if I get to be a millionaire, there are some titles I just CANNOT buy, because there is NO time to play them, even if I was a recluse who did nothing but sleep and game.
Now, this is admittedly my soap box, and there are most likely those that disagree with me. Opinions? Do you think huge budget, extremely long games are the only way to go? No matter what, I just want games to be FUN. Sound off below! I'd love to hear other's thoughts on this matter.