I Am Therefore I Think.

It’s been a long while since I’ve been into video games. Following the discontented winter of 2008 which had the Dead Space/World at War/Prince of Persia fiasco; a triple bill that really made me wonder if I should be spending so much time and energy on this hobby, there was the Mass Effect 2/Alan Wake/Red Dead Redemption trifecta a few years later which affirmed that the answer is no; since then, all I’ve played are a few ill thought out Christmas presents, had a whale of a time knocking out Portal 2 when my roommate was at class and then immediately regretted my decision to try out some games again when we endured a marathon session of Borderlands. More like Boringlands. Pause for laughter.

I do still keep up. I’m trying to make myself not regret the decade-plus of regularly buying games. I’m capping it off with a shiny new Xbox to finish the franchises I’m invested in this coming winter and giving myself closure, but between now and then, I spent a lot of time watching games: Let’s Plays, Retsupuraes and Quick Looks, not feeling like I’m actually missing anything without a controller in my hand and only yesterday, talking to my friend about Modern Warfare 3 did I have the stark realisation that I don’t think I understand the mentality of video games.

Specifically, it was the line ‘You’re the only person I’ve know who gives a shit about what will happen to Makarov. I just want to shoot dickheads online again.’ Both clauses in there made me wonder about the mentality of the gamer itself. I got my N64 in 1998 and, like everyone, I played a load of GoldenEye. As Alec Trevelyn, I shot all kinds of MI5, Janus, SPECTRE agents alongside a poor facsimile of my personal fetish fuel Xenia Onatopp in the head with all kinds of pistols, shotguns and so forth. I played a few levels of single player too; I didn’t own the game and only borrowed it for a weekend or two so I didn’t progress too far - I was pretty young at the time - but I really enjoyed running from A to B in dank corridors shooting Russians in the head with all kinds of pistols, shotguns and so forth.

Like a lot of you, I got into games around the time of the 3D arrival and I could always look in my latest issue of Gamesmaster and see the upcoming releases and future generations, see the mark up in visual quality and think to myself that everything was getting better and better. The leap in fidelity between 16, 32, 64 and 128 bit was so startling every time that it caught my attention and it always kept me interested. Instead of being Mario running from left to right, I was Mario running laissez faire; instead of merking guys from overhead, I was merking them in full 3D and listening to the music from Scarface. But then around the time of the Xbox 360, I found myself thinking that I’ve already done this.

I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who have my same concern, but I turn to the Giantbomb forums, as I’ve been known to do, looking for an asp to make fun of, and I see people paraphrasing my friend who just wants to shoot dickheads and I can not fathom how you haven’t had enough. I shot guys in the head in GoldenEye, I did it in Halo, I did it in Snore-derlands; Three generations of going from A to B in dank corridors and shooting guys in the head. First person, third person; modern, future; online, offline. It’s all the same.

With everything else I like, there’s a timeline that I can trace. My purchase of Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water when I was 12 was the jump off point that got me to sitting here, typing this, and listening to Anjunabeats Volume 8. It’s a twisty and turny set of connections, but I can look back and appreciate that, as shitty as that album was, it got me interested in music to the point of where I am now. I can go from seeing Peter Pan aged 3 to seeing Les Petits Mouchoirs aged 22. I can even follow the ups and downs of pro wrestling eventually leading me to the Bell Centre in the coolest city in the world, cheering on GSP last december. I look at my video game collection and, in comparison, I’ve taken a baby step.

The reason I almost entirely gave up on games after I played Mass Effect 2, Alan Wake and Red Dead Redemption is that you have the stories of a Canadian on an intergalactic adventure, a depressed writer busting ghosts to rescue his wife and a cowboy tracking an old ally across the wicky-wicky-wild wild west to settle an old score and in order to do all these things, to settle every one of these conflicts, I shot people till there was no one left. Everything might look nicer, but nothing else has changed in about 15 years. How do you people do it? How is that not a sign that maybe you should give something else a shot instead? Are you that easily entertained? Look elsewhere you cry. To where I ask. If I don’t want to simulate a sport, I can’t see many options. This weeks new releases, that I can play, are going from A to B shooting stuff, going from A to B shooting stuff, going from A to B shooting/hacking at stuff, driving from A to B shooting stuff; each one described in their respective reviews and previews as being ridiculous but not having much of a fiction.

It’s easy enough to blame you guys. You’re the one coughing up $60 a go to ostensibly repeat the same process you just spent $60 to do but there’s another side to this equation. One that perplexes me just as much as wondering why you guys play this stuff; why do those guys make this stuff? It’s something I’d been thinking for a while, but it really came to a head when I sat there and watched the Hard Reset Quick Look. My first thought was ‘What kind of idiot actively wants to play this?’ but that eventually turned to ‘What kind of idiot actively wants to make this?’

I can sit here and lament the total lack of auteurism in video games all day long, but were this game developed by just one guy, I could understand but when it’s a team of people all coming together to spend thousands and thousands of euros on a project, how does a committee come together to agree on something as bland and second hand as yet another FPS with no character, personality or depth besides for looking a bit like Blade Runner and invoking something John Romero did literally decades ago? How do they think this is a good idea? And why didn't they want to do something unique to them instead of expensive hack work? I’ll never play it, never want to play it and you can tell me it’s a load of fun running around, shooting things with brightly coloured guns and I’ll quip something like ‘Yeah, I know. I played Halo’ or definitely something better but, even so, the total lack of ambition this displays is so pervasive that I cant help but feel like a sucker for ever giving money to this business.

The one that really sticks with me is Capcom and their treatment of Resident Evil. Sure, Resident Evil 5 was garbage and, yeah, Resident Evil 6 will appear by 2013 with a clone of Wesker and we’ll all shoot not-quite zombies as they run at you, then walk, giving you enough time to shoot them while you stand in place all over again. I can accept that because I can accept that video games, particularly of Japanese origin, are a business ran on enticing the lowest common denominator. I can even accept that I got sucked into a shitty mythos because, at the time, it was pretty much the only franchise that actually had one. What bothers me is the obvious fact that no one at Capcom gives any kind of shit about the quality of the material they produce.

Much like the progression I detailed earlier, the gap between each succeeding Resident Evil game was just large enough to convince by 8 to 15 year old self that each game was bigger and better than the last, but when the finale arrived, it was 2009 and not only was the game a piece of shit, it retroactively made the earlier games shit too - shitter than they actually are, which is really shit. MGS4 managed to at least make an effort at tying all the strings back together for a satisfying finale. After games upon games of Solid Snake and Revolver Ocelot revolving like a helix around the events of that franchise, giving them one last sunset was awesome. Conflict that with blowing up Wesker in a volcano after 50% more games with no real rhyme or reason and you’ve just failed an entire generation of people who played it. No one at Capcom knows how to tell a story and I payed hundreds of pounds to find that out.

Please, call me naive as much as you want. I am the idiot for trying to justify my money. I am the idiot for wanting some drama in my investments. I am the idiot who wants to be entertained on a higher level than just shooting zombies again. I am the idiot who thought that maybe there was a direction to the whole thing. I am the idiot who saw a good face/heel dynamic in the straight laced Chris Redfield and the theatrical Albert Wesker. I am the idiot who thought at least one person employed by Capcom’s creative department was actually creative. I am the idiot who thought at least one person in Capcom’s creative department could tell a simple story. I am the idiot who liked Resident Evil, but you’re the idiot who will buy Resident Evil 6 and say ‘Well, all I wanted to do was shoot zombies and that’s what it did. 10/10.’

It’s not just constrained to Capcom and it’s murky schoolgirl-fucking tentacles that have spread to other parts of the world. It’s not even just Japan. It may be worse there than in American and European games development, but it seems like no company in video games has any higher aspiration than making something for a 14 year old boy. You can throw BioShock - a game that’s half a decade old - at me here but above it’s lethargic and totally average shooting mechanics is only a strawman response to Ayn Rand, an author you probably have never actually read, which probably explains the high praise. Then there’s maybe, what? I’m genuinely struggling to think of anything to actually counter my own argument. Persona, maybe, in its whole tragic underbelly of how making friends and talking to girls can give you some kind of believe-in-yourself magical power but that seems more for the lonely proto-Japanese than a normal, functioning human being.

John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy just got released as a movie. It’s fantastic. In the 70s, it was a TV show. It’s fantastic. It’s all based on the book. I haven’t read it yet but my granddad assured me it’s fantastic. You could probably turn it into a graphic novel; shit, you could probably turn it into a wrestling storyline along the lines of some kind of Corporate Ministry thing with the discovery of the higher power but you could not turn it into a video game. Imagine how good it would be to play as George Smiley, working your way through a seedy world of international political intrigue. Well, keep imagining because there’s neither an audience nor an auteur who would bring it together. Could you imagine playing a game on your Xbox 360 or PS3 that didn’t involve shooting anyone and has an actual sense of player agency? I can’t. There was a time when I was told video games were interactive entertainment but when the only form of said agency is a binary on/off, I’m more convinced that Schindler’s List is a colour film because of that girl in the red coat.

The two big whys are the main reason why I still knock about the site. The Bombcast is fun but the actual talk about games is secondary and I can bait people on other sites, not as easily but whatever, the crux of my posting and perusing is to find answers. There’s a real passion people have for games but it’s absolutely alien to me. Off the top of my head, I can pick a solid list of books, movies and TV shows from this year alone that have made me laugh, cry, just think and/or generally appreciate their respective medium; an emotional response. Outside of the single line ‘Snake had a hard life’, there is no video game that’s made me shed a tear, I can’t even think of a game that’s intentionally made me laugh, Modern Warfare and Gears are thrilling and dramatic at points but after that, I’m done. How do you get passionate about this banal hobby? How do they get so passionate about making such bland products? What is it I’m missing here?

P.S. Before you call me out, I'm intending on writing wrap up blogs for Gears of War, Modern Warfare and Mass Effect once all threequels are out. See you then.

202 Comments
205 Comments
Edited by HandsomeDead

It’s been a long while since I’ve been into video games. Following the discontented winter of 2008 which had the Dead Space/World at War/Prince of Persia fiasco; a triple bill that really made me wonder if I should be spending so much time and energy on this hobby, there was the Mass Effect 2/Alan Wake/Red Dead Redemption trifecta a few years later which affirmed that the answer is no; since then, all I’ve played are a few ill thought out Christmas presents, had a whale of a time knocking out Portal 2 when my roommate was at class and then immediately regretted my decision to try out some games again when we endured a marathon session of Borderlands. More like Boringlands. Pause for laughter.

I do still keep up. I’m trying to make myself not regret the decade-plus of regularly buying games. I’m capping it off with a shiny new Xbox to finish the franchises I’m invested in this coming winter and giving myself closure, but between now and then, I spent a lot of time watching games: Let’s Plays, Retsupuraes and Quick Looks, not feeling like I’m actually missing anything without a controller in my hand and only yesterday, talking to my friend about Modern Warfare 3 did I have the stark realisation that I don’t think I understand the mentality of video games.

Specifically, it was the line ‘You’re the only person I’ve know who gives a shit about what will happen to Makarov. I just want to shoot dickheads online again.’ Both clauses in there made me wonder about the mentality of the gamer itself. I got my N64 in 1998 and, like everyone, I played a load of GoldenEye. As Alec Trevelyn, I shot all kinds of MI5, Janus, SPECTRE agents alongside a poor facsimile of my personal fetish fuel Xenia Onatopp in the head with all kinds of pistols, shotguns and so forth. I played a few levels of single player too; I didn’t own the game and only borrowed it for a weekend or two so I didn’t progress too far - I was pretty young at the time - but I really enjoyed running from A to B in dank corridors shooting Russians in the head with all kinds of pistols, shotguns and so forth.

Like a lot of you, I got into games around the time of the 3D arrival and I could always look in my latest issue of Gamesmaster and see the upcoming releases and future generations, see the mark up in visual quality and think to myself that everything was getting better and better. The leap in fidelity between 16, 32, 64 and 128 bit was so startling every time that it caught my attention and it always kept me interested. Instead of being Mario running from left to right, I was Mario running laissez faire; instead of merking guys from overhead, I was merking them in full 3D and listening to the music from Scarface. But then around the time of the Xbox 360, I found myself thinking that I’ve already done this.

I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who have my same concern, but I turn to the Giantbomb forums, as I’ve been known to do, looking for an asp to make fun of, and I see people paraphrasing my friend who just wants to shoot dickheads and I can not fathom how you haven’t had enough. I shot guys in the head in GoldenEye, I did it in Halo, I did it in Snore-derlands; Three generations of going from A to B in dank corridors and shooting guys in the head. First person, third person; modern, future; online, offline. It’s all the same.

With everything else I like, there’s a timeline that I can trace. My purchase of Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water when I was 12 was the jump off point that got me to sitting here, typing this, and listening to Anjunabeats Volume 8. It’s a twisty and turny set of connections, but I can look back and appreciate that, as shitty as that album was, it got me interested in music to the point of where I am now. I can go from seeing Peter Pan aged 3 to seeing Les Petits Mouchoirs aged 22. I can even follow the ups and downs of pro wrestling eventually leading me to the Bell Centre in the coolest city in the world, cheering on GSP last december. I look at my video game collection and, in comparison, I’ve taken a baby step.

The reason I almost entirely gave up on games after I played Mass Effect 2, Alan Wake and Red Dead Redemption is that you have the stories of a Canadian on an intergalactic adventure, a depressed writer busting ghosts to rescue his wife and a cowboy tracking an old ally across the wicky-wicky-wild wild west to settle an old score and in order to do all these things, to settle every one of these conflicts, I shot people till there was no one left. Everything might look nicer, but nothing else has changed in about 15 years. How do you people do it? How is that not a sign that maybe you should give something else a shot instead? Are you that easily entertained? Look elsewhere you cry. To where I ask. If I don’t want to simulate a sport, I can’t see many options. This weeks new releases, that I can play, are going from A to B shooting stuff, going from A to B shooting stuff, going from A to B shooting/hacking at stuff, driving from A to B shooting stuff; each one described in their respective reviews and previews as being ridiculous but not having much of a fiction.

It’s easy enough to blame you guys. You’re the one coughing up $60 a go to ostensibly repeat the same process you just spent $60 to do but there’s another side to this equation. One that perplexes me just as much as wondering why you guys play this stuff; why do those guys make this stuff? It’s something I’d been thinking for a while, but it really came to a head when I sat there and watched the Hard Reset Quick Look. My first thought was ‘What kind of idiot actively wants to play this?’ but that eventually turned to ‘What kind of idiot actively wants to make this?’

I can sit here and lament the total lack of auteurism in video games all day long, but were this game developed by just one guy, I could understand but when it’s a team of people all coming together to spend thousands and thousands of euros on a project, how does a committee come together to agree on something as bland and second hand as yet another FPS with no character, personality or depth besides for looking a bit like Blade Runner and invoking something John Romero did literally decades ago? How do they think this is a good idea? And why didn't they want to do something unique to them instead of expensive hack work? I’ll never play it, never want to play it and you can tell me it’s a load of fun running around, shooting things with brightly coloured guns and I’ll quip something like ‘Yeah, I know. I played Halo’ or definitely something better but, even so, the total lack of ambition this displays is so pervasive that I cant help but feel like a sucker for ever giving money to this business.

The one that really sticks with me is Capcom and their treatment of Resident Evil. Sure, Resident Evil 5 was garbage and, yeah, Resident Evil 6 will appear by 2013 with a clone of Wesker and we’ll all shoot not-quite zombies as they run at you, then walk, giving you enough time to shoot them while you stand in place all over again. I can accept that because I can accept that video games, particularly of Japanese origin, are a business ran on enticing the lowest common denominator. I can even accept that I got sucked into a shitty mythos because, at the time, it was pretty much the only franchise that actually had one. What bothers me is the obvious fact that no one at Capcom gives any kind of shit about the quality of the material they produce.

Much like the progression I detailed earlier, the gap between each succeeding Resident Evil game was just large enough to convince by 8 to 15 year old self that each game was bigger and better than the last, but when the finale arrived, it was 2009 and not only was the game a piece of shit, it retroactively made the earlier games shit too - shitter than they actually are, which is really shit. MGS4 managed to at least make an effort at tying all the strings back together for a satisfying finale. After games upon games of Solid Snake and Revolver Ocelot revolving like a helix around the events of that franchise, giving them one last sunset was awesome. Conflict that with blowing up Wesker in a volcano after 50% more games with no real rhyme or reason and you’ve just failed an entire generation of people who played it. No one at Capcom knows how to tell a story and I payed hundreds of pounds to find that out.

Please, call me naive as much as you want. I am the idiot for trying to justify my money. I am the idiot for wanting some drama in my investments. I am the idiot who wants to be entertained on a higher level than just shooting zombies again. I am the idiot who thought that maybe there was a direction to the whole thing. I am the idiot who saw a good face/heel dynamic in the straight laced Chris Redfield and the theatrical Albert Wesker. I am the idiot who thought at least one person employed by Capcom’s creative department was actually creative. I am the idiot who thought at least one person in Capcom’s creative department could tell a simple story. I am the idiot who liked Resident Evil, but you’re the idiot who will buy Resident Evil 6 and say ‘Well, all I wanted to do was shoot zombies and that’s what it did. 10/10.’

It’s not just constrained to Capcom and it’s murky schoolgirl-fucking tentacles that have spread to other parts of the world. It’s not even just Japan. It may be worse there than in American and European games development, but it seems like no company in video games has any higher aspiration than making something for a 14 year old boy. You can throw BioShock - a game that’s half a decade old - at me here but above it’s lethargic and totally average shooting mechanics is only a strawman response to Ayn Rand, an author you probably have never actually read, which probably explains the high praise. Then there’s maybe, what? I’m genuinely struggling to think of anything to actually counter my own argument. Persona, maybe, in its whole tragic underbelly of how making friends and talking to girls can give you some kind of believe-in-yourself magical power but that seems more for the lonely proto-Japanese than a normal, functioning human being.

John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy just got released as a movie. It’s fantastic. In the 70s, it was a TV show. It’s fantastic. It’s all based on the book. I haven’t read it yet but my granddad assured me it’s fantastic. You could probably turn it into a graphic novel; shit, you could probably turn it into a wrestling storyline along the lines of some kind of Corporate Ministry thing with the discovery of the higher power but you could not turn it into a video game. Imagine how good it would be to play as George Smiley, working your way through a seedy world of international political intrigue. Well, keep imagining because there’s neither an audience nor an auteur who would bring it together. Could you imagine playing a game on your Xbox 360 or PS3 that didn’t involve shooting anyone and has an actual sense of player agency? I can’t. There was a time when I was told video games were interactive entertainment but when the only form of said agency is a binary on/off, I’m more convinced that Schindler’s List is a colour film because of that girl in the red coat.

The two big whys are the main reason why I still knock about the site. The Bombcast is fun but the actual talk about games is secondary and I can bait people on other sites, not as easily but whatever, the crux of my posting and perusing is to find answers. There’s a real passion people have for games but it’s absolutely alien to me. Off the top of my head, I can pick a solid list of books, movies and TV shows from this year alone that have made me laugh, cry, just think and/or generally appreciate their respective medium; an emotional response. Outside of the single line ‘Snake had a hard life’, there is no video game that’s made me shed a tear, I can’t even think of a game that’s intentionally made me laugh, Modern Warfare and Gears are thrilling and dramatic at points but after that, I’m done. How do you get passionate about this banal hobby? How do they get so passionate about making such bland products? What is it I’m missing here?

P.S. Before you call me out, I'm intending on writing wrap up blogs for Gears of War, Modern Warfare and Mass Effect once all threequels are out. See you then.

Posted by Mmmslash

You should try games in niche genres.

I've been pretty apathetic about the major, AAA releases, but then I just started playing stuff that was different.

Roguelikes, simulators, indie games, Monster Hunter. There are a lot of games out there that are unlike everything else. Maybe try them, you may find that they're your green eggs and ham.

Posted by EuanDewar

Oh fuck me, the amount to which I agree is terrifying.

Lets go.

Edited by AjayRaz

i still have a good time with major AAA releases. i guess i have most of my fun in video games out of playing with friends. any Call of Duty game would be much more frustrating to play without having some friends to laugh what can be at some points-- a crazy mess. if i wasn't playing video games with my friends, i probably wouldn't have half the interest that i have it in right now. it brings out the best in anything that a video game has to offer, i'd like to think.

though, that's just me. i prefer to play some single player games by myself, but otherwise nothing beats having someone with me to experience some crazy thrills or a broken mess. like @Mmmslash: said, niche titles can be a gold mine if you're bored of the regular stuff coming out.

P.S. as someone who grew up in Montreal, the Bell Centre is awesome and i hate myself because i used to like Limp Bizkit

Posted by Vodun

I disagree

Edited by Sooty

I keep my interest in playing games by just trying to find different stuff to play. Ever since Persona 4 and Deadly Premonition I've been pretty big on just trying games that aren't another shooter. That's not to say I don't like a lot of your typical 'AAA' titles such as Mass Effect but I've definitely broadened my taste. Good job I did because if I was still sticking to spending most my time playing Gears of War, Halo and Shoot Things 4 then I'm pretty sure I would no longer be a gamer.

I've also been revisiting older games. The Longest Journey being the most recent example, it's old, you're forced to play at 640x480 but good grief the story, voice acting and writing are still far superior to your 99% of games these days.

Right now I'm playing through The Witcher 2 and then moving onto Persona 3 and Darksiders. Taking JRPGs seriously was kind of a big deal for me as I never really liked anime art style or how Japan devs think hair should look, but the Persona games don't bother me so much in that regard. Unlike Square.

Edit: Fighting games have proved a big time sink for me as well. I have a competitive urge to get better at stuff and when you combine that with a fighting game you can pretty much say farewell to a lot of your time. (and money in my case, fucking arcade sticks)

Posted by xMP44x

You make some really, really good points! I can't recall ever seeing any longer posts here, so bonus points for that as well. Personally, I can see where you're coming from but I tend to consider it differently. I tend to be more heavily focused on the story than on the gameplay, if it is a decent game. Story is one of the driving factors in games for me, purely because they are the most immersive part for me. As for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, it's a novel that was recently re-released to coincide with the movie. I think I may need to pack it up, both for my own satisfaction and due to your recommendation.

Some times, I wish that games would try taking a book and turning it into a game, while remaining as faithful as possible. It definitely would be a flop, but it would be an interesting flop all the same. If anyone here happens to be an Indie Developer, how about you take the concept and see if you could make a light game based on a novel that is no longer copyrighted? Gaming is a pleasure for me, but it's one that I enjoy a lot more when I have a decent story to drive me along. I've turned to books for my story fix, but it could not hurt for games to eventually improve their story telling ability as well. This generation is heavily focused on multiplayer gaming, and as a result it lets the single-player side to things down. There's no room for innovation when you need to be compared to Call of Duty, or trounced by it.

I'm not saying that to bash Call of Duty. I'm just saying that its success has monopolized gaming, and it means that innovative titles often aren't as easily picked up on. Maybe in the future they will put more of a leaning towards story in Call of Duty, though. As unlikely as it seems, I can hope. I love the Assassin's Creed because the gameplay is actually varied from the rest of the market, yet it is also well written. I've read all three of the novels set in the Assassin's Creed universe, and I hope that more games turn to using novels as a tool for more story. Oliver Bowden's books aren't the best written, as some literary experts will tell you, but they are an enjoyable way to look at the story in the franchise without drawing it out. Not only that, but it gives the story in an even more human manner. Words convey emotion better than the currently restrictive animation systems available.

In short though, if you're not enjoying games in any sense, don't play them. Maybe try a few unusual titles and see if they can hold your attention. If not, then there's always a good book or movie waiting in the wings. And I really do mean always. I can recommend a few action novels if you're interested in that sort of thing, but movies aren't really my area of expertise. You may want to ask someone else about that.

Posted by Tim_the_Corsair

I agree with several of your points, but I still get a lot of enjoyment out of games and I am a sucker for good competitive multiplayer.

Out of curiosity, do you enjoy movies or books that are shallow (for want of a better term)?

Posted by Sweep

I go through a phase sometimes, where I look at my game collection and go: "Huh... I don't want to play any of this." I think that's pretty similar to what you are talking about here. Having such a narrow spectrum of experiences to chose from can be very exhausting, sometimes.

However I think that there's something for everyone, and if you aren't enjoying repeatedly murdering people then there's plenty of other stuff that's readily available. Rock Of Ages was the first thing that came to mind, probably just because I have been playing it a lot recently - but games like Fez or Gemini Rue, smaller experimental indie projects, can potentially be wonderful palette cleansers, too. I know you aren't so much looking for answers here, and that you already know all this, but I wanted to point it out anyway.

Moderator
Posted by Hizang

I can see where your coming from, but it doesn't really happen to me.

Edited by McFly

No movie, TV or book has made me laugh as hard as Portal 2 this year. No movie, TV or book made me care about a bunch of misfits as Mass Effect 2 last year and rack by brain on how to make sure they survive a suicide mission. No movie, TV or book let me fully explore and interact with a world like Deus Ex Human Revolution this year. They are all sequels/prequels to boot!

I'll absolutely agree that video games don't have the same breadth as the other mediums but there are some incredible highs available even now.

PS: If MGS made you cry, then you aren't really looking for much (same could be said for the 3 games i mentioned earlier....opinions man). Perhaps you should try Halo Reach...you might end up bowling with all the farcical character deaths in that one.

Posted by twigger89

Given your feelings about how stale and repetitive gaming concepts have gotten, how do you feel about kinect, and motion controls in general. It seems like it could open up the flood gates to a whole new mindset. How about mobile games?

Online
Posted by Video_Game_King
@HandsomeDead said:
I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there who have my same concern, but I turn to the Giantbomb forums, as I’ve been known to do, looking for an asp to make fun of, and I see people paraphrasing my friend who just wants to shoot dickheads and I can not fathom how you haven’t had enough. 
That's me? That's me! Anyway, I'll never have enough. I love the concept of just shooting fuckers up, so if this game is the same as that game, which had tons of shooting, then I don't see any reason to hate it. Why get bored with something you loved before? I don't understand the logic of, "I've seen it before, so I FUCKING HATE IT!" There's a step missing.
Edited by Icemael

Your problem is very simple: you are focusing almost entirely on narrative and themes, as if nothing else could possibly elicit an emotional response.

In video games I derive pleasure first from mechanics (learning a new system, solving a tricky puzzle, dodging a tough attack pattern -- basically, overcoming challenges of different kinds), then from aesthetics (good music, gratifying sound effects, beautiful environments, cool-looking enemies -- anything that is pleasing to the eyes or the ears), and then from story. Similar things apply for most gamers. A fair amount prioritize aesthetics over mechanics, but very few put story at the top. Because of this, mechanics and aesthetics are what developers focus on evolving, while little to no development occurs in the field of video game narratives.

This does not mean that video games are banal, or that video game enthusiasts have no appreciation for storytelling. All it means that in this particular art form, other aspects take precedence. (They do this, if you haven't already figured it out, by creating stronger emotional responses. As an example: I recently overcame a particularly hard challenge in Espgaluda II, which I had been stuck at for months, and I was fucking trembling with tension, excitement and joy. No book, film or TV show has ever had a comparable effect on me.)

Posted by Red12b

@Vodun said:

I disagree

Explain why...

Posted by c0l0nelp0c0rn1

Your use of semicolons amazes me. I don't even know if you're using them properly, but I'm still impressed.

I stopped reading after this:

immediately regretted my decision to try out some games again when we endured a marathon session of Borderlands. More like Boringlands. Pause for laughter.

Posted by Red12b

@HandsomeDead:

Bravo mate, Bravo.

Posted by EuanDewar

@c0l0nelp0c0rn1: He made a purposefully awkward joke so you stopped reading...

LOGIC.

Posted by pornstorestiffi

I ate the bananas with dry yest, what about them camel heads. Refreshing.

Online
Posted by Red12b

@EuanDewar said:

@c0l0nelp0c0rn1: He made a purposefully awkward joke so you stopped reading...

LOGIC.

Posted by RedLycra

Yep, 100% agree. Game's need to man the fuck up.

Who am I kidding that aint gonna happen any time soon.

Posted by Red12b

@pornstorestiffi said:

I ate the bananas with dry yest, what about them camel heads. Refreshing.

is this some code type shit or have words lost all sense?

Posted by Vegetable_Side_Dish

You know, the MGS series has been the most poignant of my gaming life, but I can't cite that as evidence of the potential power of video games. MGS relies so heavily on its cinematic episodes that if anything it is more of a showcase of the power of non-interactive entertainment. 

Posted by mutha3

@Icemael said:

Your problem is very simple: you are focusing almost entirely on narrative and themes, as if nothing else could possibly elicit an emotional response.

In video games I derive pleasure first from mechanics (learning a new system, solving a tricky puzzle, dodging a tough attack pattern -- basically, overcoming challenges of different kinds), then from aesthetics (good music, gratifying sound effects, beautiful environments, cool-looking enemies -- anything that is pleasing to the eyes or the ears), and then from story. Similar things apply for most gamers. A fair amount prioritize aesthetics over mechanics, but very few put story at the top. Because of this, mechanics and aesthetics are what developers focus on evolving, while little to no development occurs in the field of video game narratives.

This does not mean that video games are banal, or that video game enthusiasts have no appreciation for storytelling. All it means that in this particular art form, other aspects take precedence. (They do this, if you haven't already figured it out, by creating stronger emotional responses. As an example: I recently overcame a particularly hard challenge in Espgaluda II, which I had been stuck at for months, and I was fucking trembling with tension, excitement and joy. No book, film or TV show has ever had a comparable effect on me.)

/cosigned

Yeah, storytelling in games is embarrassingly bad-- its strongest examples barely managing to reach the moniker of "decent". But I don't see how that undermines the part where these things are games. No matter how hard you and I would try OP, we would never be able to make a shooter with controls as fine-tuned as the ones in Vanquish, design a level as tight as one in Super Mario Galaxy or build a strategy game as complex as Europa Universalis.

Posted by pornstorestiffi

@Red12b said:

@pornstorestiffi said:

I ate the bananas with dry yest, what about them camel heads. Refreshing.

is this some code type shit or have words lost all sense?

It might be both, i honestly don't know. Didn't know exactly how to respond to that long post, so that's what came out.

Online
Posted by c0l0nelp0c0rn1

@EuanDewar: I stopped reading because I really like Borderlands. I don't share this person's taste, and decided that I didn't want to read any further because of it. I'm sorry if I offended anyone, I thought this was a VideoGameKing style talking-bout-games blog. Now I see that it is more of a state-of-the-union type of blog, but about video games.

Still not interested.

Posted by TaliciaDragonsong

Yeah, I can understand this feeling but you might be putting too much thought into it all.
Go out into the world, ignore games for a good long while.
Games will always, like movies, have a standard thing going for them, there's always more shooting and punching to be done according to devs.

Posted by Red12b

@c0l0nelp0c0rn1 said:

@EuanDewar: I stopped reading because I really like Borderlands. I don't share this person's taste, and decided that I didn't want to read any further because of it. I'm sorry if I offended anyone, I thought this was a VideoGameKing style talking-bout-games blog. Now I see that it is more of a state-of-the-union type of blog, but about video games.

Still not interested.

it's still stupid

Edited by Slaker117

I go elsewhere for storytelling. Games use it at times to add to the experience, and I like when it does, but that's really not why I'm here. I like games, because they're games. Yes, the actions you take are repetitive, I've spent a lot of time pulling right trigger to shoot, but the just the nature of things, it doesn't make it meaningless. I simply find mastering specific mechanics to overcome interestingly designed challenges or be competitive in multiplayer areas to be fun. I can't really explain why it's fun, at some level, it just is. If you can't accept that, if it's not your thing, fine. Read a book, watch a movie, have you're emotionally compelling entertainment. It's all good, I like those things too, but to want games to be that kind of feels like it's missing the point.
 
That of course doesn't mean video games can never have good stories, but most of the of time they don't because they don't spent the time trying all that hard, because that's just not what they're about. Maybe some day we'll see a split between interactive novels and plain ol' video games, and then some real effort can be out into crafting better stories, but for now, I like my video games just fine.

Posted by YI_Orange

I guess now is as good a time as any to get someone to explain to me why the general opinion seems to be that in games the storylines are much weaker than that of other mediums. Is it the length? is it the pace? Is it the interactivity? Or do people just not feel that they're good? I honestly don't feel that a lot of movies or tv shows have strong stories, and to me, have an even bigger sense of "been there done that" and predictability.

As for your situation, if you're still looking to try games, it sounds to me like you're trying too hard to look for fault instead of just enjoying them for what they are. Yeah, shooters are tired, first person shooters especially, but I'm still gonna play Bioshock Infinite, I'm still gonna play Borderlands 2(co-op only), but not for the shooting. A lot of games will offer relatively unique and enjoyable experiences if you let them and don't just try and break them down to "yep, another generic shooter". Or, like other people have suggested, try some indie games or some of the weirder games.

I get a lot more out of game stories than the average person probably does. Maybe it's just easy for me to get into things, maybe it's because I don't spend time looking for fault until I notice things when other people play through the game and each time someone else plays it I hate it more and more.(I'm looking at you, Heavy Rain). Or, maybe I just have lower standards than everyone else. But hey, if lower standards means more enjoyment, I'm fine with it.

Posted by Gaff

@mutha3 said:

@Icemael said:

Your problem is very simple: you are focusing almost entirely on narrative and themes, as if nothing else could possibly elicit an emotional response.

In video games I derive pleasure first from mechanics (learning a new system, solving a tricky puzzle, dodging a tough attack pattern -- basically, overcoming challenges of different kinds), then from aesthetics (good music, gratifying sound effects, beautiful environments, cool-looking enemies -- anything that is pleasing to the eyes or the ears), and then from story. Similar things apply for most gamers. A fair amount prioritize aesthetics over mechanics, but very few put story at the top. Because of this, mechanics and aesthetics are what developers focus on evolving, while little to no development occurs in the field of video game narratives.

This does not mean that video games are banal, or that video game enthusiasts have no appreciation for storytelling. All it means that in this particular art form, other aspects take precedence. (They do this, if you haven't already figured it out, by creating stronger emotional responses. As an example: I recently overcame a particularly hard challenge in Espgaluda II, which I had been stuck at for months, and I was fucking trembling with tension, excitement and joy. No book, film or TV show has ever had a comparable effect on me.)

/cosigned

Yeah, storytelling in games is embarrassingly bad-- its strongest examples barely managing to reach the moniker of "decent". But I don't see how that undermines the part where these things are games. No matter how hard you and I would try OP, we would never be able to make a shooter with controls as fine-tuned as the ones in Vanquish, design a level as tight as one in Super Mario Galaxy or build a strategy game as complex as Europa Universalis.

God forbid some people look for something more than just gameplay from a video game?

There’s a real passion people have for games but it’s absolutely alien to me. [...]. How do you get passionate about this banal hobby? How do they get so passionate about making such bland products? What is it I’m missing here?

Hopefully not missing the point of the whole post, but... I have absolutely no idea. Video games as another form of entertainment, sure. The culmination of human culture through interaction and combination of sound, story, visuals, player agency... Shine on, crazy diamond, shine on. Just don't do it in my face: it hurts my eyes.

Posted by S0ndor

Shooting guys is exceptionally fun, though. As long as it does not take place in a modern military setting (except when it's called Battlefield).

Though, I agree that shooting dumb bots (like in Deus Ex and Mass Effect) is not really fun. I did enjoy Space Marine alot thanks to the sheer brutality of it all.

Edited by mutha3

@Gaff said:

God forbid some people look for something more than just gameplay from a video game?

That's not my point, though?OP describes videogames as banal because they almost universally lack compelling storytelling, and says he fails to understand how people can be passionate about it.

I'm telling him why I'm passionate about it. And I assume Icemael is too.

Posted by Gaff

@mutha3: I thought the OP's point was more that he perceived very little variety in certain genres (be they FPS, Third-Person, Fighting games, etc). Whether or not that's is up for debate, though flat out coming out with something that boils down to "you're doing it wrong" might seem a bit dismissive of why other people play games?

Posted by c0l0nelp0c0rn1

After having read your blog, I can slightly agree with you. However, video games by nature are wargames. That's how they started, and unless some visionary changes all that, that's how they will end. The reason why you can't name a game that doesn't involve shooting dudes is because video games by nature need conflict. Yes, emotional conflict sometimes rears its ugly head in games, but its always emotions related to violence and how it effects us.

Ultimately, the reason games use violence as their central conflict more often then not is because conflict without violence doesn't hold the same weight in a virtual realm. This is why games like Sprung and Catherine kind of suck. I say that having played neither of those games. I also think Assassin's Creed is pretty good.

Edited by Vodun

@Red12b said:

@Vodun said:

I disagree

Explain why...

I don't play games for the story. I play games for game play.

I feel that games have the potential to be the best story telling medium, but it takes too much of an investment for it to be feasible as it is today. Much like very few people are good at both design and tech, it's extremely few games that both have fun game play and a compelling story. Usually a dev team focuses on one or the other. Heavy Rain for examlple, to my mind, tells an interesting enough story but most importantly it tells it extremely well in the game environment. Unfortunately the actual game play is nothing more than a series of quick time events and it limits its audience because of it. Team Fortress 2 has absolutely no story (yeah the trailers are cute but come on) but it has game play polished to a fucking shine. Once again; limited to a specific audience.

Right now it just so happens that games focusing on game play sell better, back in the day adventure games dominated...they were nothing but story and illogical puzzles.

In difference to the OP though, I play games mainly for game play and enjoy many of the current games released. Also in difference to OP I make no claims to have figured out what I enjoy, and hope I never do so I try as many things as possible and am continually surprised. I even played Farm Vile [sic] during the Betting the FarmVille series for chrissake.

In summation: I disagree

Posted by Galiant

I like games. This topic is so bitter and sad.

I'm gonna go play some more New Vegas in preparation for the last piece of DLC. Marty Roosevelt King needs a new pair of authority glasses!

Posted by AhmadMetallic

This was a very interesting read, but I don't exactly have anything to say that you don't already know.  
 
I won't suggest alternatives like indie games, and I also won't suggest that you "take a break" or change your daily routine etc.. All i'm gonna say is, in the past you used to feel the thrill of going from A to B and shooting dudes, because you and I both know that it's not that simple: there's much more traveling and thinking involved, the aesthetics and environments and cool graphics and sounds and cutscenes increase your enjoyment, and there's enough variation in "going from A to B shooting dudes" that the experience remains fresh and varied. Everything in the world has a certain formula, music consist mostly of the same stages (intro, chorus, etc..) movies usually consist of the same progression and ending, however the content itself, how you experience it and what it includes, how it looks and sounds and makes you feel, is what we're all here for.
 
What's happened to you now, apparently, is that you simply are not feeling that joy anymore. I don't think that can be fixed, it's all in your mind. it's all about the vibe you get from something and how much it excites you, and I'm sorry that you no longer share our excitement. 

Posted by AngelN7

@HandsomeDead said:

I spent a lot of time watching games: Let’s Plays,

I think that was your first mistake , It took me long but I finally find out that you shouldn´t be wasting time watching other people completing videogames on the internet even less if the do it in the most obnoxious way possible ... Teasing trailers for Lets plays.

Posted by penINC

First: Brevity, motherfucker.

Second: Honestly, you just seem bitter. You make a few decent points here and there, but those have already been addressed by other users, and overall, this blog just seems like you trying to establish that you're better than everyone else for because you're too good for video games. I don't know why you would feel the need to do that, but that's what it reads like.

Third:

@HandsomeDead said:

Persona, maybe, in its whole tragic underbelly of how making friends and talking to girls can give you some kind of believe-in-yourself magical power but that seems more for the lonely proto-Japanese than a normal, functioning human being.

Classy.

Posted by arab_prince

Funny, I thought the same thing for Hard Reset. Excellent read bud. I find myself now just playing Darksiders because I want to check it off my back log. After that, I don't know what game I will play because nothing really interests me.

Edited by Zippedbinders

Its easy to point fingers at big games and talk about "this or that is wrong with games" but that doesn't help anyone. If the constant glut of bullshit turns you off of games, and you actively have a desire to play games, then you need to find new experiences. Catherine, 999, Amnesia, and Digital: A Love Story are a few games that I've had profound emotional reactions to that don't require placing a bullet between someone's eyes to advance the story.

Its not about being disgruntled until its fixed, its about finding the entertainment you want to be a part of and embracing that. Games are a broad medium and the narrative experiences you want are out there, you've just done a bad job looking for them.

Posted by LordXavierBritish

This is the exact reason I've been ignoring console games almost completely for the last few months and just buying a bunch of old PC shit.

Honestly if you are looking for any kind of narrative maturity in games at this point the indie crowd is the best you're gonna get. I can say, quite confidently, that the only games that made me feel anything this year were Bastion and The Stanley Parable.

And maybe Ghost Trick, but probably not Ghost Trick.

Posted by Zithe

@HandsomeDead: You and I are about the same age (judging from the timeline part of your post), and we seem to be facing similar obstacles here. Over the last 10 years, the most formative time of my life, I have changed much more rapidly than the video game industry has. What entertained me before interests me no longer. I have all but stopped playing shooters after years and years of doing that dance. The difference here is that rather than using my new-found apathy to paint the whole medium equally, I've chosen to seek out other genres and focus on what makes gaming different.

Giving the user control over the work is something that is unique to video games, and this is an aspect you seem to be largely ignoring. I can understand (and support in many cases) your denouncement of many of today's developers, but do you really not believe the medium itself is capable of more? When it comes to higher level storytelling, I think the gaming industry just needs to be given a little more time to catch up to literature and film. For now, try to explore some options outside of the AAA shooter releases. Just wait for Skyrim to give you an entire world to explore and discover.

Posted by countinhallways

@HandsomeDead:

Great writing, and sadly I find myself agreeing with pretty much everything you have said within.

I recently started reading "The Sirens Of Titan", one of the earlier, more science fiction-y novels by Kurt Vonnegut. Fantastic story. Moves at a good pace, great characters and an incredibly well realised vision of the near-future. All told with the usual healthy dose of cynicism and wit. And man... reading that book took me all of maybe six train journeys. So about five hours. And it gave me so much more than any game has in a long time. Definitely food for thought.

Similarly to the OP, I have lost my passion for games in a big way the last few years. Sadly however, I probably spend more money on them than I ever have before. I think I am trying to recapture something. I buy shit-loads of games, desperately trying to find one that makes me feel how I used to years ago. Find one that captures me, moves me like they used to. But to no avail.

Instead, I find myself more interested in competitive games. Games where I can actively improve my performance while engaging in friendly competition.

@Sooty said:

Edit: Fighting games have proved a big time sink for me as well. I have a competitive urge to get better at stuff and when you combine that with a fighting game you can pretty much say farewell to a lot of your time. (and money in my case, fucking arcade sticks)

Basically what he said. So in some ways, fighting games have replaced some of the leisure time I would have previously spent on more story-driven gameplay, while novels have taken up the mantle of being my primary source of imagination fuel. To be honest, I amn't too bothered by this fact anymore, but I still yearn for a game to come along that really grabs me by the brain and has its way with all my pleasure zones.

ALL of my pleasure zones.

Posted by ThePickle

You seem to only be paying attention to current console FPS's. Try PC stuff. Playing Civ5 and StarCraft II was a revelation for me. Don't automatically assume any game made by Japan is terrible. I too see quick looks for Resistance 3 and Dead Island and wonder if video games really are evolving. But, there are so many of them I don't need to focus on that one area. Yes, it's the most dominant, but are the most dominant movies or music or books always the best? No.

Games borrow from other games. There, you did it. Cracked the code Jeff freely admitted several years ago. Are the Portal 2's of the world dominating the video game scene? No. But are the Tree of Life's dominating the film world? No. You can look at all the summer crap and say, "Are people really satisfied with the same thing over and over again?" The answer most of the time is yes. But that doesn't give you the right to write off the whole medium for good.

You can argue that games like Red Dead Redemption or Mass Effect 2 are just shooting guys, but you're missing the point. It's like saying Inception is a terrible movie because the popcorn you had while watching it was stale. It may have affected your viewing experience, but you need to look at the big picture.

I've been taking somewhat of a break from games too. There's not much out there for me right now. But, when there is something for me, I am immediately retold why I love the medium. You may want to know what happens to Makarov, and your friend might want to play online. Both are legitimate ways of enjoying something. You can't tell someone how to enjoy something.

"I am the idiot for wanting some drama in my investments. I am the idiot who wants to be entertained on a higher level than just shooting zombies again. I am the idiot who thought that maybe there was a direction to the whole thing. I am the idiot who saw a good face/heel dynamic in the straight laced Chris Redfield and the theatrical Albert Wesker. I am the idiot who thought at least one person employed by Capcom’s creative department was actually creative. I am the idiot who thought at least one person in Capcom’s creative department could tell a simple story. I am the idiot who liked Resident Evil, but you’re the idiot who will buy Resident Evil 6 and say ‘Well, all I wanted to do was shoot zombies and that’s what it did. 10/10."

"How do you get passionate about this banal hobby? How do they get so passionate about making such bland products?"

Well, the first step is getting off your high horse and trying to look past the stuff everybody else is playing and suddenly thinking you're saying something no one else has said before. Thinking you're above everybody else who wishes to spend their time on video games is your first mistake, and one you make every time you post here.

Edited by TheSouthernDandy

Dude. Videogames.

I kinda get where you're coming from but unless I missed the real subtext behind this, to be honest it came across somewhat condescending. Very well written to be sure but...yeah.

I would love it just as much as you if games could be some life altering transcendent experience but the fact remains, they are video games. It's a mass market industry that's run by the almighty dollar and devs and publishers need to sell games to stay in business. The big sellers are always gonna be the games that pander to the larger audiences, thus Military Shooter 5 and Sports Team 7. Until the markets as a whole get tired and wants something different and shows that by using their wallets, that's what we'll get.

I think it's a little unfair to put down games that try to do something different while still being marketable. Bioshock for instance, I don't feel the need to read Rand and understand the ins and outs of Objectivism to enjoy that game for what it is, and realize it's bringing more to the table then "shoot shoot win". It was an experience that stood out for me and to be honest the "Would You Kindly" scene is still one of the most memorable experiences i've ever had be it game, book, movie etc.

At the end of the day though, this is a hobby. That's it, that's all. If you're losing your passion for it, I totally understand that but a lot of people still have a blast playing games whether it's escapism, a means to blow off the tension of the work day or whatever. Loving to play Generic Shooter is just as valid as wanting something new and different from the hobby. If that's what makes them happy, that's all that matters. If you're not getting what you want from video games, find something else to do. There's a lot going on out there that doesn't involve a screen.

Posted by Rolyatkcinmai

I agree with the whole shoot dudes philosophy being stupid, but most of the games you listed don't apply. You just hate good games.

Edited by GuyIncognito

@HandsomeDead said:

then immediately regretted my decision to try out some games again when we endured a marathon session of Borderlands. More like Boringlands. Pause for laughter.

Jeff playing borderlands in the quick looks is hilarious. It's like watching someone giddily excited about a blank screensaver, while he's staring at it for about half an hour.