What a totally “meh” E3, right?
While nothing at E3 was relatively new or will set the stage for preliminary excitement like Gears of War for the 360 or anything, it did highlight something that has been bothering me about videogames for so long.
It’s that games are completely stupid and are only held back by themselves.
We’re at a dividing road between titles that set out to completely immerse a player into its world like The Last of Us and games that set out to deliver a very well tuned “gamey” experience like Dark Souls or Rogue Legacy.
These gamey titles are experiences that focus on the mechanics and fine-tuning those while delivering an experience that’s simply fun. Games like Street Fighter IV and Fez aren’t necessarily trying to offer an immersive experience. But instead they revolve around a design philosophy where fun takes precedence over a greater narrative. Or at the very least wouldn’t serve well in those fancy guided demos we see on stage every year.
My issue was highlighted by the traditional guided demo we saw with games like The Division, Rainbow Six, and Call of Duty. Those guided tours through those worlds looked thrilling and better than my experience will likely be. I have heard those demos described as, “the model home of videogames.”
There is a very large place for “gamey” videogames. Divekick, amiright? I love what they do and typically prefer them to the immersive narratives. Mainly because I don’t think the story driven game has been done well a lot.
This isn’t due to a lack of vision or technology, it’s due to games like Bioshock holding on to “gamey” ideas. I would argue Bioshock leans more into the narrative driven game but holds on to too many artificial elements for me to take seriously.
I remember playing Bioshock Infinite in front of my girlfriend. She was into the sky city and all the cool narrative hooks. But after seeing me dig through trash cans every 10 seconds made it difficult to pull her in and for me to take the game seriously. Seeing a game tackle racism and religion only to be followed by an endless stream of audio logs and robbing corpses sets a very awkward tone.
Those goofy gamey elements play well in something like The Elder Scrolls, when that game is so artificial and revolves around collection stupid shit anyway. But Bioshock!? Remember how silly Joel looked in The Last of Us the second you got a flamethrower? How often did you have to stop and press ‘Square’ to collect ammo in Wolfenstein: The New Order?
I want clearing a home in Rainbow Six: Siege look as smooth as it was demoed. What will it really look like? Will that floor that’s eligible to be blown up glow yellow? Will bad guys act independently and just run after you for you to press ‘R3’ to execute a single slash of a dagger and kill them? Or will that victim (that flag) really panic? Are those walls destructible? Will I get awkward button prompts that communicate when I can infiltrate the house’s window?
I’m not begging the game industry to move forward and tackle social commentary tomorrow. However, if I’m going to have a serious discussion about a game’s narrative, I can't have the juxtaposition of half that experience being digging through trashcans and audio logs.
What do you think?
Also, I'm moving to Chicago very shortly for a job. It involves videogames! Please PM me or get with me on Twitter, @stevenbeynon for any tips on where I might want to live. I know NOTHING about the city. Any help is appreciated.