Call me crazy, but I miss the old days. The days of plastic cartridges and child-like wonder. The days when gaming felt like a cool "underground" hobby and less like business-driven entertainment. That said, the last decade has brought a number of wonderful innovations to the industry, not the least of which include revolutions in the online community gaming space.
But you know what? I'm not going to talk about that now. It's cold and rainy here and I'm in a bit of a pessimistic mood, so instead, I'm going to look at what negative advancements we've seen ushered in, or in some cases amplified by, the current generation of gaming.
I don't know about you, but downloadable content has irked me more than overjoyed me since its inception. Don't get me wrong, supporting a game after its launch is all well and good, but too often we've seen developers withhold content that otherwise would have been included in the final game. As far as I'm concerned, when I shell out $60 for a game, I want a complete standalone experience. Much like a book, I want the entire story neatly packaged in that initial purchase; however, developers have been using DLC as an excuse to rip out pages from the story in an effort to get more money out of the consumer.
This not only results in a cheapened on-disc experience, but pulls the developer away from moving onto their next title. And then there's the issue of blatant cash grabs, which may not always include content essential to the overall game experience, but leaves a bad taste in my mouth nonetheless. Horse armor, anyone?
Another semi-controversial innovation that has reared its ugly head this generation has been the introduction of Achievements/Trophies, a "feature" that I absolute abhor with every part of my being. All you Achievement-hunting trophy hounds will almost certainly disagree, but I believe these little awards severely detract from the overall game experience. First off, the interruptive nature of these little notifications drives me bonkers. I could be in the middle of a particularly intense gameplay moment or cut-scene when that alarming little tone disrupts the experience.
Not only that, but these awards manage to distract the gamer by stirring up that compulsive nature to get as many points as possible. I'll admit, I've fallen victim to the hunt a couple of times, and when I do, I end up hating the experience. Instead of playing the game because I want to, I end up slogging through particular areas or replaying points to death all just to earn some virtual award. It's something I've had to condition myself to avoid now, and I've had better experiences because of it.
This next one I doubt will receive much opposition. Motion gaming has in many ways watered down gaming and limited creativity. Instead of focusing on new and exciting game worlds and mechanics, we've seen the rise of plastic peripherals and motion wands. While on the surface they may appear to bring forth creative new game experiences, they haven't made waves for gamers.
Nintendo's motion controller (and Sony's for that matter) are nothing more than gimmicks. Mark my words, we will never see anything truly groundbreaking come from these control schemes. If anything, it's hindered talented developers like Nintendo from creating the truly remarkable game experiences they are capable of this generation.
All right, that's enough jabbing at Nintendo, as this next issue is something that clearly doesn't apply to Mario and his band of cutesy characters. Grotesque violence has gotten completely out of hand. When the Xbox 360 and PS3 launched several years ago, the industry was graced with better, more realistic visuals. So what was one of the first things we saw? Loads and loads of guts and gore.
Instead of sophisticated, mature gaming experiences, this generation has been marred by chainsaw lancers and eye-gouging warriors. And while this has undoubtedly rung true for games preceding the current generation, high-definition visuals have only exacerbated the issue. We as a culture are growing desensitized to violence [The digital kind, at least ~Ed. Nick], and call me crazy, but I find that to be a bit disturbing.
Speaking of disturbing, the rise of DRM (digital rights management) is one area of particular concern. Since more and more content is being sold digitally and the online space is growing more and more relevant, consumers are purchasing content that is more limited than they might think. Some games (I'm looking at you, Diablo III) require a constant internet connection even if the player wants to play solo. Not only that but these digital purchases oftentimes only entitle players to a license to play the game, so in many respects, the consumer doesn't actually own the game at all. And I fear as this industry evolves, it's only going to get worse.
Do you agree with my lamentations? Are these truly unfavorable trends that have tarnished gaming forever or am I completely off base? Sound off in the comments below.