Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Worst Trends in Gaming 2012

So yesterday I talked about some of the things that made me happy to be a gamer in 2012. Sadly, as in life, there must always be dark to the light, a yang to the ying or a Ganondorf to the Link. So without too much preamble here are some of the ongoing trends that form the underbelly of the gaming world. Be wary friends, for here there be awfulness.

3) We still can't make Tie-ins worth a damn

Quick! Name a videogame tie-in that didn't suck horrifically. Seriously, I'll wait.

If you answered anything other then 'Chronicles of Riddick' then I'm afraid you've been exposed to so many bad games that you've lost the ability to properly judge them.

Sweet, sweet kidney shanking actionSource

Yes, despite the fact that many properties seem tailor-made for game adaptation (Tron anyone?) we are inevitably left with terrible, rushed out cash-cows. Many of which end up barely resembling the name someone paid thousands of pounds to put on the box.

This year we had a few of these games come out, some of which slid under the radar for being kid-friendly (Brave) or were so terrible that they at least gave us a few new laughs on the already absurdity-saturated internet  (Star Wars: Kinect).

However there was one game released this year that highlighted just how bad these kind of lazy tie-ins can be. Where they not only make bad games but games that are so bad they somehow make the source material seem much worse then it is. That game was Game of Thrones:RPG...

Admittedly, it's a bad sign when one of your protaganists looks like a potato-man

For some context, Game of Thrones is currently the hottest property in HBOs admittedly pretty impressive line up. Season 3 is in production and the books themselves are selling like nobodies business. You would think, given all that excitement and positivity to work with, making a game in the World of Westeros wouldn't be difficult.

You'd be wrong

 To make things worse this is actually developer Cyanide Studios second attempt at a Game of Thrones game. Their first attempt, on the much more sensible tack of doing a Strategy game, was actually even worse.

So why does this matter? If tie-in games have always sucked and only continue to do so surely it can just be safely ignored?

Well, it matters because a good adaptation can take things beyond the source material into something greater. If you want proof of this (and because I never get tired of seeing it) check out The Avengers:

The Marvel Movie U is distinct from it's comic counterparts, taking things that work while abandoning some of the minutae that doesn't. You know what else? It's fricking awesome.

2) Welcome to Standinistan

Lets not be childish about this, Modern Warfare games are here to stay and more then a few of them are pretty good fun. Still, I'm probably not the only one who's a little bit bored of charging through the same Quasi-Middle Eastern country setting over and over while people shout in Arabic and fire AK-47s with all the accuracy of the Emperors finest Storm Troopers.

Clearly they're in...Um...Source
This years entries into the grey-brown country tour were Medal of Honour: Warfighter (which at least has the benefit of being set in the real warzones of Aghanistan etc.) and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. I won't go into which is better, mostly because I haven't played them yet but from the advertising it definately seems they're sticking to a theme.

In between the moments of brilliance (shotgunning a rogue combat droid is pretty epic) it's more indistinguishable desert locales getting marred up with explosions while the same three or four brunette white guys run around shooting stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I quite like these games just wish I could maybe go somewhere a bit more fancy next time.

1) Holy Sequel-Dump Batman!

Here is a list of games that were released over 2012. If you take even a cursory glance at it then you'll notice something pretty quickly.


So many of the titles are followed by a number, whether it's Black Ops 2, Halo 4, Borderlands 2 or even something more Indie like Trine 2. Sequels are once more claiming a choke hold on the world of gaming. 

The reason is pretty simple, and it's something I mentioned last week. Gaming is and always will be a business and if the big publishers have learned anything over the years it's that gamers, like most branches of Geekdom, will cling viciously to brands and symbols that they love. Walk into any forum right now and claim that Gears/Halo/Call of Duty isn't the best game ever made and you'll be quickly swamped by a flame-war of epic proportions. 

This tribalism that really is at the core of most 'geek' hobbies (Marvel vs DC, Star Trek vs Star Wars, D and D vs Pathfinder) helps ensure that publishers play it safe and give people exactly what they ask for, year after year.

I don't think I need to say why this is a bad thing, it can strangle creativity. If all the industries talent and resources are locked up making sequels to proven titles then we'll never get new properties that we can grow attached to and add to our lively debates.

Ah well, until next year brings brighter times let us say Skål! and drink together.

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