When gamers and publishers think alike – the death of creativity

August 7, 2010

It might only be the case for me and a a minority of gamers, but I can´t help but feel that the gaming industry has forsaken its creativity. When you take a look at current generation systems´ lineups, you´ll only find all the typical titles and types of games. Besides big, old franchises, there´s all these “Hollywood”-games, games that almost pull you through a level without any kind of self-thinking, of exploration, of sense of wonder. And then you have gamers claiming that there is creativity. But they will point towards simple, “small” games, mostly featuring 2D-gameplay or being flat out puzzle games. But creativity within 3D-games, games that feature an ingame-character that you can control? Nowhere to be found.

There is still no gaming-equivalent to a Ghibli-movie. And even the Ghibli-featured Ninokuni does nothing different in terms of gameplay.

Gaming has become predictable. Gaming, not games. When a big, hyped title is released nowadays, it´s not the gameplay that you´re wondering about, it´s the game´s story. And that´s exactly the industry´s problem. Instead of pressing forward within the possibilities of video games, developers and publishers AND gamers keep focusing on mimicking Hollywood. One of the highest selling “hardcore”-games is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but in terms of gameplay, there is nothing that could explain its success. It is a plain, totally uncreative first-person shooter, completely linear, offering nothing that you hadn´t seen before. And yet, the media praises it, the gamers praise it, and the mainstream, obviously, praises it, too.

You could say, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the ultimate evidence for the death of creativity within the industry, but there´s lots more of examples. Simply take a look at all the popular games: Alan Wake, Final Fantasy 13, Grand Theft Auto 4, God of War 3, StarCraft 2, or the upcoming Halo: Reach. None of these games offers a new kind of gameplay-style. Every single one of them is defined by its story, its visuals, or its fun factor (which is good, just not in the context of creativity). Where are these games that make me say “wow, that feels like nothing ever before!“?  These games did exist last generation, with games like Metroid Prime, the original Halo or ICO.

An endless list could be made about ideas that video games have not yet used. Having recently watched Nolan´s Inception makes me ask: Where is this high-budget game that features a concept like that? Putting the player inside a realistic looking world, but giving him the power to change everything! The hell, there has never even been a game that properly used the concept of the Matrix-movies. All we get are games that may use the theme of such concepts, but you never get to play it, you just see or hear of it in cutscenes. Where are high-quality third- or first-person shooters that treat human life as something important, giving each and every enemy a certain weight, and where killing is not a simple matter of crouching behind an object and waiting for the enemy to raise his head? Where are all the games that create an environment that makes me stop at a certain place and grant me enjoyment simply by watching and listening to the scene? But not by having some brain-fart scenery that makes some self-proclaimd art-experts say “oh, that was so beautiful, it made me stop playing“; but instead, making me stop because of a world that feels so incredibly alive! Where is the non-linear, super atmospheric space-adventure (not one where you only control a space ship, but a character, walking inside a space ship, flying it, leaving the space ship and climbing around on its outer surface) with a steady stream of DLC? Where the hell is a first-person shooter that finally properly captures the atmosphere of Aliens (the second movie)?! And don´t you dare bringing up one of these hectic, score-based co-op-shooters. Playing Alien Swarm currently is fine, but never will be able to immerse myself in a game with top-down-camera. Where is a game that lets the player take control over a character that can freely fly around in the sky, but actually making it so that the player can almost feel the wind? Where is the GTA-like game that includes a proper racing game? Where is the MMO-shooter that is happening in real-time, where you are part of a gigantic group of soldiers, and everything is happening in real-time, with every player having only one life. A real, virtual war. And so on, and so on.

There is so much that could be done within the world of video games. So much crazy stuff. I mean, it´s that reason why I love games, why so many of us fell in love with games. This limitless possibilities, opening up a world full of fantasy and craziness.  Instead, the industry, and I mean the whole thing, including gamers, seems to have settled with a certain base-level of gameplay, and the only sales-driving aspects are story and visuals. It is sad, because so much more would be possible. Someone just has to do it.