What's the Current State of Gaming?

What’s the current state of gaming? It really depends who you ask. To some, gaming is enjoying a resurgence in sales and conversions the likes of which haven’t been seen since the 80s. To others, gaming is entering murky water, where the true gamers are being left behind in favor of the growing casual gaming population.

But where do we really lie? Right now, we’re in the midst of Console War V (according to my own count), and more people consider themselves gamers than ever before. Most of those people, though, play casual games or free Windows games such as solitaire; ask how many "gamers" own a PS2(3), Xbox (360), or Nintendo (pick one), and the numbers likely plummet faster than the suicide ghosts in 1408 (good movie, by the way).

Even with what people consider real games, most of the titles these days that succeed are sequels, based on popular IPs, or come with some packaged gimmick (like inclusion to a beta). It’s rare to see a company truly take a stand and offer something unique, because in the past even when they’ve been extremely successful — such as Clover and SUDA51 — they rarely make nearly as much back, and are always less reliable when it comes to income. The fun and original games will usually fail, and it’s not until they’re no longer sold in stores that they become popular — when their eBay or Amazon price rises.

The industry that was once about providing innovation and fun to people who enjoy games has turned into an industry based on making an easy buck, high development costs and timetables, and stability rather than risk-taking. What happened, gaming? What happened to the days when you would bring in a virtual unknown to design games for a failing company, even if the idea of a gorilla throwing barrels sounded stupid? What happened to coming up with an original title and saying, "Hey, if it doesn’t sell, oh well. Let’s just tell a good story and entertain people"?

Now games are about commercial flash and economic value rather than fun. Remember when games could be beaten in less than 5 hours, but we didn’t care because they were a blast? Turtles in Time is considered by many to be their favorite SNES game, yet you can beat it before an episode of Seinfeld is over. Now any game that doesn’t offer more than 10 hours of play (without replaying the game) is considered rental material, or a waste of money. Even the most innovating games these days aren’t innovative; they involve some gimmicky form of control, or a previously popular franchise. The truly innovative games just don’t sell.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not placing the blame on any person’s or company’s shoulders. I myself have been responsible for this new mindset in terms of gaming. Somewhere along the line while we were all trying so hard to convince our parents, friends, peers, "the man," and other forms of entertainment that gaming was serious business, we did turn it into serious business. The problem with that? Gaming is about playing games for fun and entertainment for ourselves, not justifying our playing habits for others or listening only to what other people say without trying games and judging them personally.

Sadly, I think we’re starting to forget that — but it’s not too late.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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