Monday, April 19, 2021

Signal Boost for St. Tommy

Find the series Here!

I've been doing a lot of thinking about purpose and mortality recently, though you'd probably never guess by what I actually post about here. Wasteland & Sky is an attempt to at least be relevant to the arts and entertainment and how they relate to us in return. Naturally, with things being such a mess, it is sometimes difficult to focus on the bigger picture without getting too broad or obvious. I would assume those who visit here also well know about these things.

This is why I've also tried harder this year to boost other writers and artists as best as I can. There are many artists and entertainers out there who have a focused goal, know what they want, and strive to reach it. In an age of corporate focus tested product and propaganda disguised as art, we need these people more than ever. We don't have a giant money-burning media machine behind us to give us exposure. We have to do the job ourselves.

So I want to focus on others who put in the work for their success. One such individual is Declan Finn and his St. Tommy, NYPD series. I know there are many readers of action thrillers out there but who are sick and tired of the way things are in OldPub. The formula has gotten stale long ago. You know pretty much every beat coming before you open the book.

However, this series is something quite new and different from what you would find in that decrepit swamp of closed book chains. This is written by someone with a passion for storytelling beyond the tropes that OldPub desires in their formula. 

The description:

My name is Officer Thomas Nolan, and I am a saint.

Tommy Nolan lives a quiet life. He walks his beat – showing mercy to the desperate. Locking away the dangerous. Going to church, sharing dinner with his wife and son. Everyone likes Tommy, even the men he puts behind bars.

Then one day a demon shows up and he can smell it. Tommy can smell evil – real evil. Now he’s New York City’s only hope against a horrifying serial killer that preys on the young and defenseless.

But smell alone isn’t enough to get a warrant. Can Tommy track down the killer and prove his guilt?

Dragon Award Nominated Author Declan Finn returns with his typical action-packed, Catholic influenced style, in this groundbreaking horror series about an honest, religious man given the powers of a saint to fight demons in the Big Apple.

How do you do forensics on a killer possessed by a demon?

Can Tommy catch the killer before he becomes a martyr? Or will the demon bring darkness beyond imagination to the whole of New York? Read Hell Spawn today and find out!

There are currently eight books in the series released, but I know with certainty that there are more on the way. Declan Finn is a prolific and proficient writer, so you know he's already got a plan for this. That alone is more than the "big" writers in the genre pouring out of OldPub. This series is the breath air the genre has needed for a long time, so be sure to check it out. Especially if you like horror in your action.

The religious angle is also not a gimmick. In fact, it's key to the whole series. They definitely don't make them like this in OldPub!

As the description continues:


This book contains Catholicism, God, guns, miracles, America and the presumption that all life is sacred starting from conception. It will also accurately depict abortion, psychopathology, and other things that will be horrific. It's a horror novel, that should be expected. Also, it pokes fun at other Catholic orders and societies, because Catholics have a sense of humor.

That's definitely something you wouldn't get away with in OldPub. 

The entire series (so far!) is available here on Silver Empire's site. Give it a look. There isn't anything else out there like it.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Anatomy of An Implosion

Sometimes it is difficult to believe we are living in the 21st century, especially when so little has actually improved from the 20th.

Today I would like to revisit another industry that has failed to learn its lesson from the last few decades, and is on the verge of collapse. I apologize if this blog has appeared very one note recently, but this subject has been too fascinating to steer away from. Consider this a third part in a three part series, if you must. Where we have gone through the destruction of physical media primarily through gaming we have also hovered over what caused the destruction of the industry itself in the last edition. Now, I wish to take it back a bit and look at where it actually all went wrong--what attitudes led us to the modern day situation.

How have we gotten to this point?

There are many different opinions on what truly went wrong with the video game industry, with some doubting anything is wrong at all, but everyone can agree that it is not the same industry it was starting out. This means something did have to objectively change along the way to make that shift. What exactly that was is what we're going to look at today.

Due to an intrepid reader with a great memory [many thanks to RisanF!], I was sent a link to a blog by a controversial commentator in the video game industry. This blog has posts going back well over a decade, which makes for a neat time capsule as to what was happening at the time. His opinions can be a bit extreme or bizarre, but they usually have a sort of logic to them that allow you to see where he comes from. That said, whether I agree with them or not, he was blogging back when what David V. Stewart calls Gaming Ground Zero for the industry occurred. Reading this blog with posts from the time brought back all sorts of memories of what it was like during those years. And what I remember wasn't a very pleasant time.

Sean Malstrom was blogging back when the 2007 creative collapse of the industry was in full flowering, and reading his articles posted around that time gives one a very clear picture as to what things actually were like. Regardless of your feelings on him or his commentary, he did make numerous insights that were controversial at the time and yet were proven correct many years later. One of those assertions was on how the industry had forgotten what creativity was.

If you read between the lines, however, you see that the problems go back further than that generation. We didn't get here over night, as one rarely does in these sorts of things. However, for now, we will start in ground zero, the first HD generation.

The Nadir of Creativity

There is an interesting column at GameSetWatch that places the engineering side and the software side as two faces of Janus. What the column is about is a story writer who thinks the software side of Janus should ‘prevail’ over the engineering side. Or, rather, he thinks the engineering side has gone too far.
"Engineers are explorers. They break new ground in the sphere of possibility, opening up new realms to observe and utilize. Artists are communicators. They convey ideas and concepts, illuminating ideas within the human mind. These two disciplines are equally important, and equally valid approaches to making games."
Yet, this can be turned around. Artists often describe themselves as the explorers and engineers as communicating with the player (for who is to help make the user interface, smooth things out for the player?).

You hear very little mentioned about the game player. It has been the assumption of the industry that should either face of Janus make the game to entertain themselves, it would entertain gamers by default. This assumption can no longer be made. As the audience broadens, one cannot assume the developer’s desires will be the audience’s desires. This doesn’t mean make products toward focus group testing as the audience does need to be surprised. It means that the audience will want the game to do a different job than what the jobs developers play games for. The new jobs could be for social or training purposes or something else, but it will be different than was what we tend to normally assume the reason why we play the games.

Janus is dead. The ‘skill’ and ‘talent’ of either face, engineering or artist, no longer matter. What matters is performing the job the customers want done. We can no longer assume the customer wants grand immersion from every game as well as ‘grand story’ or ‘grand multiplayer combat’ or ‘grand art’.

A plague on both their faces. It is said that everyone wants to be an artist. Steve Jobs had to get his employees from constantly delaying their stuff until it was ‘perfect’ by saying, “Real artists ship.” Perhaps the game industry needs a similar maxim such as “Real artists serve the customer’s jobs.”

Does this mentality sound familiar? Yes, it is the logical conclusion of Sony's AAA direction, ending up in the creative wasteland that was The Last of Us 2 or anything else that is a result of Sony's entire modern mindset. What you want is what "the artiste" who knows better than you wants to give you. This means poor narratives that wouldn't make the SyFy channel grade wrapped in the same slow, cumbersome combat mechanics ripped out of 2006. This is what creativity is considered to ve in the modern industry. This is nothing like what it once was.

You have a subset of gamers who desire pretty, creatively bankrupt movies in the place of video games because of this mentality they were pushed into after years of prodding by game journalists and their egoist pals in the AAA industry. You were steered into this by an industry that didn't want to be what it was, and hated that you didn't want it their way. And the way they changed everything was surprisingly blunt.

One of the biggest sleight of hand moves was how the lapdogs of the AAA industry, gaming journalists, invented the now-defunct terms "Hardcore" and "Casual" gaming back in 2006. This was created around the time the Nintendo Wii came out and completely blew away the competition. The industry hated that this happened, and they wanted this disrupting company gone ASAP.

You see, game journalists didn't want companies like Nintendo going in the "wrong" direction. They didn't want games that played different from each other or gameplay to actually change. They didn't want new ideas. They wanted something they could look at and feel like big boy adults instead of goofy dumb little boys head-shotting aliens in split screen deathmatches. They wouldn't read books or watch movies, no. Instead, they wanted video games to do the jobs those other medium excelled at, by deemphasizing what made them what they were to begin with. They didn't want to be gamers, they wanted to be seen as artistes and revolutionaries.

So they created a category to put themselves into, "Hardcore", to describe people who wanted "real" revolutionary gaming experiences, and the term "Casual" to refer to everyone else who was only into gaming for gimmicks like different styles of gameplay. Because the Wii was a gimmick, and they had to let you know that at every turn. It wasn't real gaming.

However, the fact of the matter is that the Nintendo Wii was wildly successful, and yet a large segment of the industry absolutely hated these people and thought little of them. This meant AAA and journos had to pull a Campbell and try to redefine things for a new (smaller) audience instead. We simply can't let things go on as they were, we have to narrow focus!

And narrow they did.

If you hate this system then you weren't paying attention, sorry.

“Casual” gamers have been referred to in a way as if they are ‘retarded’ gamers. While they are the ‘downmarket’, this also doesn’t sufficiently explain what is going on with these new gamers. Demographic stereotypes also won’t solve the issue. What is the secret to the so-called ‘casual gamer’?

On another unrelated paper, someone, with great authority, said to me, “You are writing it for casuals.”

“WHAT did you say?” I demanded.

“You wrote it for casuals…” he repeated. “Instead of using a formal tone, you novelized it. You inserted dialogue. This helps people learn the content.”

But let us take this idea further. With books, we know there are tons of ‘literature’ and elitist type books where the author is attempting to create ‘art’. However, the best sellers are made for ‘casuals’ and lack ‘serious’ literary writing. From the elitist view, these best sellers are ‘dumbed down’ for people. From the consumer’s point of view, they just want a good story to perform a job such as something to occupy them while riding a plane or on a beach. They have nothing against the ‘literary’ books except the prose is so thick, and so many obstacles of the author trying to use countless ‘symbols’, that the story is difficult to get at.

This approach sounds familiar, doesn't it? A supposed elite class taking charge of a medium to do what they wanted, audience be damned, in order to reshape it in the fetishistic image they desire. All under the guise of "innovation" and "progress" that, when looked back on, was nothing of the sort and ended up making the industry worse.

It was all an excuse to create the very industry we now have. you know, the one literally nobody likes. This is all a result of pushing gaming into that box.

They put it into this box, because its easier to control something when you don't have to worry about creatives coloring outside the lines. These usurpers exist to control, not create. They want to be god kings, not creators. And to do that, the old ways must be erased.

It happens every single time.

Most every industry had been going through this for years by the time of 2007, but Malstrom explains in said post exactly how it affected video games during the first HD generation.

And, hoo boy, did it ever.

Let’s apply this gaming. Disruption does divide the consumers in numerous parts (Undershot, Overshot, Non-Consumer), but everyone in the industry only talks about two ‘groups’: casual games versus hardcore games.

Take a standard ‘hardcore’ game. Here, we find the focus of the game was made to focus on the developer/publisher. It is the “Look at me! I am so cool!” We begin seeing long, drawn out cinematics. We see an ‘epic story’ with a overly long introduction (and these ‘epic stories’ are really garbage, but every developer thinks he/she is a creative genius). And there is a long tutorial to ‘teach’ the ‘stupid’ user of the amazement that will come from the game. With these ‘hardcore’ games, the developers strut like peacocks as if they were rockstars or movie directors. “Look at me! Look how cool our game is!” A big red flag is when the designer attempts to make the game into ‘art’. Instead of making a fun product for the consumer, they are focused on making ‘art’ which is another way of saying they want to display their ‘brilliance’.

The user focused game is very different. Since the game doesn’t attempt to be ‘art’, the industry snarls and calls them ‘non-games’. The entire game revolves not around the ‘design’ or ‘story’ but around the user and the user’s reactions. Miyamoto tests games by watching users’ faces. “I try to make people smile,” he says. Many companies do the same, but the difference is that there is a feeling that the game is the developers’ baby and everyone believes their baby is the most beautiful. They are unwilling to hack it to bits, to take it apart or take it back to the drawing board. Publishers are unwilling to do so because they have financial quarters to meet. Only a devoted user-centric company, such as Nintendo or Blizzard, are willing to delay a game significantly ‘until its done’ or even destroy the project entirely. Other companies say, “They can do that because they have the money to delay.” But both weren’t always big. In order to delay games until they are properly finished, perhaps these companies need to focus on smaller games, ones that they can financially afford to finish correctly.

The 8-bit Era is very useful as most of today’s current franchises began there and the era was a ‘Shift’ just as this cycle is. ‘Super Mario Brothers’ was not made so Miyamoto could make himself famous. It was to make a fun game that even children could play. ‘Legend of Zelda’ was not made to create high art. It was made to make Yamauchi money. And this is done by creating a different gameplay experience.

The so-called “Hardcore” games are broken games. They are obsessed about enthroning the developer/publisher. Sophisticated gamers, just like sophisticated readers, like this because they are on the same mission as the developer/publishers: the desire to make gaming more ‘sophisticated’. ‘Sophistication’ means the same as it would in the ‘literary’ sense: to make gaming into ‘high art’ (whatever ‘high art’ is. People just want to play a freaking game).

It's OldPub and Hollywood all over again.

At the time, this sort of assertion was laughed at. But after seeing the current state of AAA, can you say he was wrong here? This is exactly what the industry turned into, and it came directly from vilifying what video games actually were.

The false hardcore/casual binary fostered the worst kind of attitudes in the industry at the time, even worse than the "kiddy" tag they tried to push on Nintendo for the two previous generations. Because not only was it a lie and based on deceit, but it led to gamers trying desperately to remain relevant by choosing the right team and swallowing everything the game journalists said about the bad team. And who the "bad" team was is extremely obvious.

I can't say the propaganda push didn't work since there are people to this day who believe the Nintendo Wii was garbage casual for babies due to a terrifying gimmick that usually amounted to little more than flicking a wrist or pointing at the screen. you see, this was "hard" and "exhausting" because I want to be lazy, sink into my comfy couch (there's another old chestnut term) and barely move. Because enshrining laziness is always a good argument against something.

Isn't it weird how gamers were convinced that new ways to play their games, which had been standard in the industry since Pong, was casual and wrong, while consoles that offered little new aside from prettier graphics were hardcore and correct? If you hate the current direction of Microsoft and Sony then you should probably understand that it exists because you supported everything about it back in the '00s. You let the game journalists manipulate you into fighting their war for them. Now you're suffering from diminishing returns. All because the concept of a pointer controller made bugmen irrationally upset.

If you want me to be honest, the Nintendo Wii was the best console of its generation, only hamstrung by third party developers who deliberately tried to sabotage it by refusing to put their games on the system. This caused mistrust in buyers and left them to rarely buy third parties unless they were companies like Sega or niche like Hudson Soft. They rejected companies like Capcom who would port "tests" as if Wii customers were lab rats while also skimping on developing the game itself. Had third parties not done this, there would have been more games aside from a healthy library of niche titles from devs who couldn't afford the jump to HD. Because the Wii is actually an excellent system for those who enjoy niche gaming, or what was once normal gaming.

This "third parties don't sell on Nintendo systems" line was, by the way, not a common phenomenon for Nintendo as revisionists claim. The Gamecube and N64 did well enough, and their handhelds had always been huge. Everything sells well on the Nintendo Switch, for instance. But nobody talks about that because it's inconvenient and it would disrupt the narrative it were spoken. The third party problems on the Wii were of the industry's own making, because, as Malstrom said, they didn't want the industry to go in that direction. They were essentially doing what EA did to the Dreamcast--refusing to develop for it in the hopes that it would die. This is why they insisted on calling it gimmicky and casual. They needed that to be true.

You know what industry they wanted, because they now have it. Digital, DRM, and interchangeable product based on outdated concepts and ideas. It's no surprise that, aside from Nintendo, everyone else in the industry is hurting in Current Year.

Since there are still many gamers who swallow the lies about the audience that came on with Nintendo Wii, I want to share a different post with a story similar to my own. It is about a so-called "casual" that got into gaming because of the Nintendo Wii.

Or should I say, came back to it.

Normal people enjoying video games? Inconceivable.

Another voice speaks from the Expanded Audience. This is the same audience we are told who are the gaming equivalent of retards and who do not view gaming websites.

I’m just writing to say that I am one of the customers that Nintendo has been able to KEEP precisely because of New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Super Mario Bros. 5).

I was a hardcore console gamer throughout my childhood and through college, but at the end of college, I found that my tastes had changed, and that my time and money was limited. I was prepared to abandon gaming (in the sense of buying new consoles and games), and just keep a few of my favorite games from bygone eras, and be content with those. Microsoft and Sony were intent on just pushing bigger more expensive hardware and games that simply did not feel much different over games of the previous generation, and even then, I enjoyed many NES and SNES games much more than anything current.

That changed when Nintendo introduced the motion controls of the Revolution AND did not opt for HD so that I could afford it (or rather, so that it felt like an okay investment of my money verses other things I could do with it).

Ever since I left college and entered the real world, I have constantly been on the brink of leaving gaming. I don’t have nearly enough time to play games as I once did, and I could be quite content just enjoying the old games I still have and enjoy to play without buying any new games. If Nintendo abandoned games like NSMBW and started following the path that Matt Casamassina want it to take, they would lose ME as a customer.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? Because I have more important things to do with my time and money, and because I’m not impressed by bigger and better graphics anymore, I’m a worthless gamer to these people now. They would rather I spend my money elsewhere. They would rather have ALL games made for them, than have Nintendo keep me around as a customer with the occasional game I actually want to play.

I understand that these gamers want better and better graphics, and want intense storylines, and want eye-candy, and online multiplayer experiences with 13-year-olds shouting homophobic curses at you… but I don’t. I just want a game that I can pick up for a few minutes here or there, and enjoy myself for the brief moment I can find to play a game. They have their countless “hardcore” games… why can’t I have my Super Mario Bros. 5?

In my opinion, it is the best game made this year on ANY CONSOLE. Playing this game on multiplayer is almost equal to the feeling I had playing Super Mario Bros. 3 as a little kid. Sure, NSMBW isn’t perfect, but it wouldn’t have been made perfect by better graphics or sound.

If Nintendo wants to keep me from sliding into the Red Ocean, they need to make more games like that. Not necessarily just reworkings of retro games, but like you’ve been talking about: focus on fun arcade gameplay. If not, then I’m going to become a former-gamer.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your blog!

I can tell you that it was the Nintendo Wii that kept people like this playing video games, because it wasn't too different from myself. As gaming was "maturing", I was getting tired of it. The 128-bit generation was a creative dud aside from the Sega Dreamcast and Sega's departure from the console industry really killed a lot of interest I had in it. They are still missed. It was just the 32-bit generation again, but with prettier graphics. It doesn't mean there weren't good games, but it felt like everyone was content spinning their wheels after abandoning classic gaming behind. What I was seeing from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was little more than the same games yet again but now in shiny HD! That just wasn't interesting to me.

That's not much of a selling point to someone who still thinks Wario Land: Shake It! is still probably the best looking video game ever made. As a kid, I was wowed by PC, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and 32-bit 3D graphics, but that gimmick was wearing off as I got older. Flash is something that wows kids, not so much adults. I didn't game to gawk at the screen and brag to people who don't care about how pwetty the gwaphics look between the shallow QTEs. I came to have fun learning new gameplay systems and how to use them to my advantage to conquer the game before me. The Wii offered that, whether you want to admit it or not. Most don't.

At the same time, however, I was missing classic experiences. There were entire genres I wasn't allowed to have anymore because the industry didn't want me to have them, even though they sold. Genres such as the 2D platformer became locked to handhelds because everything had to be 3D on console, regardless of its inferior salability. You still have people to this day convinced 2D doesn't sell on consoles when they actually have no evidence that it doesn't. This was another front in the "hardcore vs casual" gaming war, for some reason. Liking old games and wanting those arcade genres to continue was actually seen as "casual" at the time.

All of these disparate yet somehow connected arguments all came to a head when Nintendo released the game New Super Mario Bros. Wii (referred to on the linked blog as Mario 5) in 2009, and utterly destroyed the illusions of games journalists and graphics whores. Suddenly, it turned out that "casuals" outnumbered "hardcore" and the industry melted down over it.

As Malstrom himself mentions in reply to the above reader:

It is because Mario 5 is in 2d that people automatically assume that the game is ‘simple’ and Nintendo was ‘lazy’ in making it. But look at it, and NSMB DS, sales. If making a 2d game is so simple, so easy, so lazy, then why didn’t someone else do it in these twenty years? There have been a number of platformers and even recent ones like LittleBigPlanet to downloadable ones. There has been flash games and User Generated Content. Yet, none of them come near the phenomenon that Mario 5 is.

The conclusion from this is that this old school gameplay, this arcade-like style of gaming, requires a special craft that is rare in modern game developers. You would think that Super Mario Brothers, which was the king game series of twenty years ago, would have been surpassed. But no. Despite the length of time, no one was able to surpass it.

Instead of recognizing that this oldschool gameplay requires a talented craftsman, there are denials that any such craftsmanship exists. To these deniers, Mario 5 sells due to “nostalgia” as if you or I woke up one day, saw Mario 5 resembling older Mario games, and immediately ran out to go get the game because of nostalgia. Others will say it is nothing but the Mario brand but this doesn’t explain why Mario 5 is pushing hardware sales and selling out at places while other Mario games didn’t.

I love gaming where the gameplay has been lovingly crafted as opposed to modern gaming which is an assembly and putting together of various parts for “production values”.

Unfortunately for game journalists and HD hounds, New Super Mario Bros. Wii ended up being one of the highest selling games of all time, and outsold everything on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the systems of "real" gamers. All from a genre that was supposedly dead and that no one wanted. This should have been a wake up call to the industry. But it wasn't. 

This 2D game has outsold, and has still outsold, every single 3D Mario game, too. The four New Super Mario Bros. games combined make for one of the highest selling series of all time, despite being a punchline to people who worship at the altar of aesthetics. So why is it that we couldn't get a 2D Mario game for over two generations of Nintendo console flops? The audience was clearly there, they clearly wanted the product, and they clearly were begging for it. But they never got it.

Why was this obviously popular genre not allowed to be made anymore? Who decided it for us? These were the questions some of us were asking.

Here was the thing with the people in first HD generation: they were petty and childish. Their false reality was quite quickly shattered in a way they just could not comprehend and they had to take it out on someone. They couldn't admit they were wrong.

For most people it took about five more years to understand how bad gaming journalism was. For me, it was this generation that taught me that the supposed curators of my hobby hated me and others like me, wanting us to stop ruining their religion with our filthy presence. These were manchildren who felt guilty for liking the things they liked as children, but had no desire to get other interests. These are the people that ruined the industry they supposedly loved.

It's been swept under the rug, but after New Super Mario Bros Wii came out and was celebrated as a huge success by gamers, the game industry had an absolute meltdown. Game journalists cobbled together screeds about their hate of Nintendo, wrote articles to go out of their way to bash them for not "evolving" or being just like the HD twins, and just generally became dishonest about what "casual" gamers were. It was a temper tantrum and a half.

Malstrom covered one of the most famous incidents from this time, the IGN podcast episode where they did nothing but tear into Nintendo, Wii owners, and just about anyone who wasn't an acolyte for their movie games. All this from the success of one game. By the way, this was supposedly the "Nintendo" podcast. That makes the following extra worse.

Terms so meaningless that they have meaningless merchandise.

Paraphrasing some of what is being said:

  • Wii sucks because PS3/360 have achievements.
  • Achievements are an innovation as big as motion controls. Achievements are a better innovation than motion controls.
  • When you play Wii games, you do not feel any accomplishment.
  • Mad World is awesome, it would have sold if it had achievements and social networking.
  • Wants the Miis to copy Avatars in having clothes.
  • Mentions Wii Sports Resort and other games by saying it has achievements in it. But says it doesn’t matter because the achievements do not go ‘beyond the game’.
  • Mention people in the comments defending Nintendo. “Nintendo fanboys have brainwashed themselves.” IGN staff then mocks Nintendo fans by pretending to be brainwashed: “I don’t want achievements!” “I don’t want HD!” “I don’t want to just sit on the couch and just play!” “I don’t want to get up and wave my arms!”
  • Quote: “Turning on my Wii is a very lonely experience” because Wii doesn’t have some Xbox Live system.
  • “I don’t know anyone in the Bay area who doesn’t live with a room-mate.” (Not sure I want to interpret that…)
  • Podcast then switches to talking about Cassamassina’s “Nintendo is lazy” column.
  • Talks about how Gamecube Nintendo used to push big huge games with cutting edge graphics.
  • Says Nintendo stopped doing this because they couldn’t compete. (No mention of Blue Ocean Strategy.)
  • “Wii has been phenomenally successful, but it is the first Nintendo console I do not want to play.” “A great example of this would be the new Super Mario Brothers for the Wii.”
  • Mario 5 doesn’t set the world on fire in how it uses the Wii. It is just “Here’s the game!”
  • Call Mario 5 a DS port. “Nintendo just took everything that worked on the DS and just put it on the Wii.”
  • “That is how Nintendo has been so financially successful.”
  • Says there was no money put into Mario 5. No money for Research and Development.
  • Wii is a Gamecube with a new peripheral.
  • Nintendo has given up the battle of the epic games to Microsoft and Sony. “Absolutely,” replies another.
  • Nintendo doesn’t care to enter the battle of Microsoft and Sony. “And I think it is hurting them in the long run.”
  • Nintendo needs to go after the hardcore. One person says their mom has a Wii and hasn’t bought a game for it.
  • One person used his Mom’s Wii, puts in the new Mario game, declares the Wii controllers are all dead, then updates the Wii’s firmware. Then says he updates the firmware yet again.
  • Craig Harris: Mario Galaxy is epic because of its story (as well as its texture mapping and cutscenes). However, Galaxy isn’t as good as games on the HD Twins because games on the HD Twins have more epic stories.
  • Craig Harris isn’t happy how people accept what Nintendo is doing by not putting epic stories into their games. “Link doesn’t talk!”
  • Craig Harris after demanding that Nintendo games have voice acting: “I really want to play games like Uncharted 2 on the Wii.”
  • “Assassin’s Creed 2 feels like a Mature Zelda game.”
  • Craig Harris: “I know video games are in the money making business. But companies like Microsoft and Sony are doing certain things and if Nintendo is going to sit back and relax…”
  • “They’re betting that the casual market will be there forever.”
  • Nintendo is doomed because Wii is going to become like the N64. Sony is going to sneak up through them.
  • “Wii totally reminds me of how it is used in casual households is like the crappy systems you see in Walgreens when you are checking out. Plug and play guitars!” “It’s like a little gimmick when you want to do something with it.”
  • Keeps attacking the “casual audience”.
  • Likens the “casual players” to what caused the Atari crash in 1983 (not joking, they said it).
  • Says Nintendo is where it is at the end of the latter SNES days where Nintendo is sitting comfortably and getting ready to make the N64. Says Nintendo will fall once Sony Wand and Microsoft Natal get released.
  • Mentions an email where it asks Cassamassina, “Why don’t you go after Nintendo for being lazy with Mario Galaxy? It is, after all, tons of recycled content with purple coins and all.” They say this doesn’t count since “all games have that.”
  • Start bashing Phantom Hourglass.
  • Says Wii is best when emulating the PC. “like games as World of Goo.”
  • Says if you are a new consumer looking for motion control, you will be wowed by Natal and Wand.
  • Say they like Wand because they actually hold it.
  • Others say they are skeptical of both Natal and Wand since they are copying what Nintendo is doing.
  • Another email says NSMB Wii is being knocked more than it should. Is annoyed people are bashing the side scroller. They disagree with the email and says Nintendo didn’t do anything with Mario 5 except putting out a red box.
  • In a Japanese magazine, Miyamoto says he wanted the gameplay to be the same for all four characters in Mario 5.
  • Reads an email who says that Mario 5 was scored too high by IGN and should be below an 8.
  • Says Gamecube was a hardcore system (I thought it was a kiddy system?)
  • Starts bashing Animal Crossing Wii and Wii Music.
  • “What is the point of complaining?” says an email. “Because we got tons of comments and tons of traffic,” answers Harris. This is perhaps why this podcast is so intentionally bad.
  • Bashes the Quarter 1 release schedule from Nintendo.
  • Talk about their favorite Wii games. Mention Mario Kart Wii and Boom Blox.
  • Doesn’t know why Excitebots isn’t selling.
  • Harris admits he thinks Mario 5 is one of the top games for the system (odd for bashing it so much earlier in this podcast)
  • One email asks if Blaster Master sells well on VC, will it get a sequel? (Doesn’t appear they answer this.)
  • Says no one will try a VC game they haven’t played.
  • Email complains about how Daemon’s WiiWare reviews all complain about leaderboards not being online.
  • Tells developers, who might be listening, that it is 2010 that they should only put arcade games with online leaderboards.
  • Email asks if Project Hammer being resurrected with Motion Plus. No answer, just hyena sounds as they laugh at their own jokes you can’t make out.
The second panel exists because they needed to destroy the industry and rebuild it

This is a real podcast that happened. It's not a parody, or one of those old YouTube shows with bad mics and awkward silences by amateurs. This is a professional company putting out a professional product. And this is what they came up with.

The masks were removed to reveal manchildren who not only hated what their supposed audience wanted, but hated the audience themselves. They had no authority over anything, no special knowledge, they were just petty, vindictive, and shallow. And for anyone keeping track of what has happened since then, it has clearly deteriorated further over the years. The industry now openly hates its customers and wants them replaced.

Where did this attitude come from? How did we go from a subculture of people all playing NBA Jam together and marveling at how great these simple and inventive gameplay systems were, into two split groups of needing yearly updates of dry simulation husks or retching at the very concept of sports games? This isn't anywhere near close to what the industry once was. There was no divide on this level decades ago.

There had to be a catalyst. Nothing happens out of nowhere--everything has a reason to become what it is. And this situation is no different.

This is going to be a controversial opinion, but Malstrom offers his own take on what happened to video games that lead them down this road. You're probably not going to like it, especially if you are a Millennial.

It isn't the original PlayStation because, let's face it, Sony was throwing darts at the wall just trying to make something stick at the time. There was no unifying vision as to what they wanted to be. This is why the PS1 has a library that is so all over the place. They didn't solidify into what they would be until the PS2, when they seized market control.

It isn't the Sega Saturn because Sega was a mess at the time. From the Sega CD to the 32X to the Saturn, as well as Bernie Stolar's crippling of the latter (as well as his industry-harming anti-2D policies spreading over to the PS1), Sega didn't have the vision at the time to pull this off. It took until the Dreamcast for their final go at bringing the arcade experience home to take hold. Sega wasn't the future at this point, they were the past.

The mentality that became the industry standard actually came from an unlikely source: Nintendo. That's right, it was their own policies of the time that ended up shaping the industry to come, even when they were being bashed as "kiddy" by the industry. 

The source is the Nintendo 64.

Flying Omelet puts forth an intriguing idea that the so-called ‘casualization’ people bemoan Nintendo about where a game had to be all things to all people started with the N64. I would have to agree. The Starfox franchise wasn’t destroyed with Starfox Adventures, it was with Starfox 64 in a similar way that the Mario Mania was ended with the unpopular Mario 64 (it was unpopular in comparison to the Marios that preceded it). Ocarina of Time wasn’t even played as a Zelda game but as a 3d sandbox, as a type of pre-Grand Theft Auto 3 game (Miyamoto was surprised that most people who bought Ocarina of Time didn’t bother to finish it. Perhaps they just played it more as a sandbox?). Mario Kart 64’s tracks were so long and boring, people didn’t bother and just stuck to the battle modes with four people. So Mario Kart became more like a sandbox.

I don’t mind sandboxes as games. But that is what PC gaming is for. I hear people talk highly about Goldeneye, but I always found the game to be garbage because I played true First Person Shooters on the PC with Internet access and all. Today, people replay Goldeneye and say, “Wow, this game is garbage.” Derp.

Out of all the reading I have seen on Nintendo, I have never seen one Nintendo developer speak of the development experience of the pre-NES, NES, or SNES areas as ‘fun’. When they talk about Link to the Past’s development, they speak of it as if it was a horrible experience. You never see Miyamoto talk fondly about the making of the original 2d Mario games. You don’t see Sakamoto talk about how much fun it was to make Metroid, Metroid II, or Super Metroid. I get the impression that Yamauchi worked his engineers very hard.

But when it comes to the N64, suddenly everything changes. Nintendo developers start talking glowingly about the experience. Not everyone, of course, has a good experience (the Mario 64 programmers quit the company once the game was done). It is a marked change from the earlier games.

I’m a business guy. I look at the N64, and I see disaster not because of ‘cartridges’ or anything else. It is a disaster because of the first party games. These games didn’t excite people like they used to. The N64 sequels, which were Gamecube games, continued this downward trend.

The NES and SNES original games were designed around the arcade skill formula. The N64 games played more like 3d sandboxes. In Mario 64, it was a 3d sandbox where you hunted for the star. How boring! Who even liked such games?

The complaints I had about the N64 are similar to the complaints the ‘hardcore’ gamers have about the Wii. This is fascinating. The N64 games do mark the time when Nintendo stopped making ‘gamers’ games’.

Why Nintendo keeps returning the N64 formula for the games even though they are demonstrating no growth or health for the franchise is another story altogether.

I believe Nintendo irrevocably changed sometime in the late SNES era especially with the release of the Virtual Boy. The N64 disaster was seen as ‘success’ inside Nintendo only because it wasn’t a Virtual Boy. And I suspect Nintendo’s attitude has been “How do we get people to play the games we want to make?” ever since. Nintendo even expected the Wii games to get people interested in Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 or Zelda Twilight Princess/Skyward Sword. The 3DS blatantly reveals Nintendo expecting everyone to become excited about 3d gaming.

One game caused all of this. All it did was be a quality product.

What year did the N64 come out? Oh right, 1996.

I don't entirely agree with all the examples Malstrom uses in his post, but I think I see the core of what he means. Nintendo's mindset shift at the time was to move away from what worked and into something audiences have never fully embraced. After two systems in a row, it looked as if Nintendo would never return to its 2D glory days, because it saw a future in something else entirely. That something else just wasn't classic gaming.

The man who oversaw this transitional period at Nintendo was Hiroshi Yamauchi, the third president of the company. After leading Nintendo's charge into the gaming industry back in the 1980s, things were slowing down for him by the mid-90s. He was in charge of both the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube before stepping aside to allow Satoru Iwata to take charge. Yamauchi's focus was always on charging ahead, and charge ahead he did, taking on new project after new project. This was a strength back when Nintendo were new to the market, but by the mid-90s, it wasn't the approach needed. Subconsciously, it seems he knew that since he kept attempting to retire long before the '90s ended. But without a proper successor, he just couldn't do it.

By the late '90s it was obvious Nintendo was on a downturn, and by 2002 during the Gamecube era he stepped down and handed the reins to the aforementioned Iwata. He had finally found the correct successor, and this ended up being the best possible call. This turned out to be the move that would save Nintendo and would cause much conflict inside the industry that exists to this day. All because Iwata knew exactly where things were going wrong.

You see, Yamauchi was a businessman, first and foremost, and was always looking for the way to deliver the most for the cheapest cost. But Iwata was a developer--he had actually made games, his first being back in the early 1980s during gaming's Golden Age. This meant he knew what made a great game, because he made them. This was a first for a video game company, having a developer as the one in charge of it, but it looked as if Yamauchi's successor was the correct one.

I say this because Satoru Iwata was the architect behind the Nintendo Wii, the DS, the 3DS, the Wii U, and the Switch. Only one whiff out of five, successfully overturning the downward slide in fortunes Nintendo had suffered since the SNES and creating four of the highest selling systems of all time. He did this by returning focus to the games themselves, away from the more sandbox and tired modern designs that was dominating the landscape and towards more traditional gameplay ideas and a return to couch multiplayer that the industry never appeared to want. He was attempting to bring the industry forward by bringing it back.

This was the market disruptor that Nintendo was responsible for that angered the industry so much. After abandoning their own roots for two generations straight they ended up with a generation swimming in hits, including with the long thought dead 2D platformer and couch multiplayer games. They only stumbled with the confused Wii U as they simply didn't know how to advance from the success of the Wii. Finally they figured it out with the Nintendo Switch, his final project before he died. Iwata's importance in the industry should not be underestimated, because he was the last of his kind in the big leagues.

What this says is that the Nintendo 64 approach, not the NES approach, is what the industry has been going for since. More power, abandonment of traditional design, and tons of flash to cover the cracks, all to disguise the fact that the gameplay itself is not as tight or as interesting as what was done before. Nintendo reversed their fortunes because they instinctively knew this was a dead end, and as a result will never return there again.

A lot of focus is cast on Super Mario Galaxy's story, but little is on the fact that the gameplay was a deliberate move away from the failures of Super Mario 64 and (especially) Super Mario Sunshine. The levels all require skill-based platforming around tactile obstacles and design with clear, understandable goals. There isn't nearly the same amount of filler padding the previous 3D games had. As a result, they had finally remembered the franchise's roots, and got success accordingly. It says something that Super Mario Galaxy 2, Super Mario 3D Land, and Super Mario 3D World, each went even further in this direction. Even Super Mario Odyssey, at its best, is focused on traditional challenges in a more open environment instead of the same repetitive challenges from the original 3D games. This isn't what you will hear game journalists talk about, though.

This was also part of the issue with The Legend of Zelda formula. The original games up until they went 3D were all simple adventure games with a world you had to figure out and explore in order to conquer. When they went 3D they became story-based games with exploration as a distant second in importance, and what you found when going out of your way was not usually very impressive or worth your time. Heck, in order to pad out The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you now needed to find five heart pieces instead of four to increase your health. This isn't even including the hour long tutorial before the game properly starts.

This all hit a nadir with the disappointing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, essentially Nintendo's version of Sony's third person action games. Linear, dull, and all focused on a story that will not carry the same old 3D gameplay. That this was on the Nintendo Wii, of all systems, and still managed to be a sales disappointment is very telling. The old 3D Zelda formula had run out of gas.

But this was all turned around with the top-down 3DS game The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. They deliberately went back to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and designed a game which allowed you to tackle any challenge you wanted to at any time. It led to a far more open and interesting world to explore, allowing the player to figure it out on their own again with the story of secondary importance just as it was in the old games. This approach continued with the mega-hit The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game that finally reinvigorated the stale 3D Zelda formula beyond being a story game with a bit of exploration into being closer to the originals in intent. Zelda was now about exploration and wonder again, not narrative!

Just as in the original game you are set loose with nothing but your wits to carry you through the wide open world before you, story being a distant second to the exploration. The game is, of course, not perfect, but it is the first 3D entry to manage to nail the wonder and excitement of exploring a fantasy world that the original game set out with. Since the original series was designed by Miyamoto wanting to replicate the feeling of a kid setting out on an imaginative adventure into the woods with his stick as a sword, this game knocked it out of the park.

Nintendo's current success in an industry that is experiencing a downturn should come as no surprise. They have seen failures and have corrected course when they can. This is, of course, exactly how it is supposed to work.

But does anyone else in the industry do this? Take a look at 2009, then take a look at how things are now. Then you will get your answer.


What is going on is very similar to how the newspaper industry began to decline. Newspapers, as well as TV media, began to start saying whatever they wanted. People would write in as helpful readers to help correct the newspaper article or whatever. The newspaper’s response was to laugh at the reader and say, “You do not know how to do proper journalism”. The news business is the only business I can think of where the customer is told he is wrong. Very rapidly, an erosion of viewers occurred with TV media and newspapers. They fled to alternatives such as forums and blogs on the Internet.

These game websites might think they are immune since they get exclusive previews and exclusive reviews before anyone else. But they should be warned that even the major newspapers and TV media thought the same exact way. The ‘traditional media’ kept jerking on viewers’ chains, kept making non-news into news, and kept bleeding the editorials into the news where one can no longer tell any difference between the two. And ‘traditional media’ is currently on its death bed. The ‘traditional media’ thought everyone would keep putting up with their crap. And look at where that brought them.

The “Game Industry” consists of organizations of interlocking self-interests. For example, the ‘game journalism’ and the ‘game companies’ are very different but their self-interests interlock them. ‘Game journalists’ will suck up just to get exclusive content. ‘Game companies’ will speak only to the ‘game journalists’ if it means they can easily control them. And there are other groups too such as the ‘analysts’. Why does Michael Pachter sound as if he is on the payroll of Take Two?

Perhaps we’ve been going at bringing down the “Game Industry” in the wrong way by targeting it generally. Perhaps if we target one or two of these interlocking self-interests specifically, the entire system will come crashing down. I will try to come up with some ideas.

In order for gamers to win, the “industry” must lose.

So, does anyone else in the industry self-reflect and reassess?

The answer to that question is an emphatic "No." No, nothing has changed since back then. No, they have not learned anything and they have only dug their heels in further. The industry has only sunk deeper into the mud to the state it's in now.

But I already told you last time what a bright future the industry has, it's just not in AAA. The mainstream industry, the one you were lead to by conmen and grifters, is on the way out. The current climate is not sustainable. Whatever remnants of AAA will be in vague patches of nostalgia in the memories of people who haven't watched enough good movies or read enough books to know how bad it actually was. Everyone else will be busy playing video games again.

For the last comparison, I want to show you how things have changed since 2009, at least subtly. I'm going to point out what a retro revival over a decade ago was like as opposed to one now. One was a bad 3D remake of an old game, while the other is a new 2D entry in the same series. They are both from the same franchise with a pedigree in gaming.

I'm going to use the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as an example.

In 2009, Ubisoft put out a remake of the classic 1990s arcade/SNES game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. It was a mess. They didn't add any of the SNES enhancements, but just took the arcade game and added 3D HD graphics over it. They then broke the combat system by allowing eight directional attacking for both you and the enemies which made it far more difficult than the original, in a very cheesy way. The classic soundtrack was gutted, leaving the same forgettable modern music games love to use now.

All in all, it was a complete misfire that had no idea what made the original a classic game. That was par for the course when it came to 2009, however.

Here's the original, followed by the remake.

They don't even look like the same game, do they? Uglier aesthetics aside, they might as well have changed the backgrounds, because they aren't related otherwise. 

None of this really matters since you can't play the remake anymore regardless, because it was digital only and removed when Ubisoft lost the TMNT license. Because this is the digital future game journalists fought for. It isn't the first game to suffer this fate, and it won't be the last.

Essentially, this remake represents everything that was wrong with gaming at the time. Thankfully, it has gone forgotten as memories of the superior original remain.

Now, in 2021, a different developer took up the TMNT license and has made their own new game in the old style, one which looks a lot more like the arcade games and yet is brand new. These developers saw Turtles in Time, understood its arcade roots are what made it so popular, and sought to replicate that success for the new game.

Made by DotEmu, the team behind the recent hit revival of an old series Streets of Rage 4, comes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge. This is a game deliberately designed as a sequel to the old Konami beat 'em ups, not attempting to remake or ape them like the failed attempts other companies have made over the years. As a result, Shredder's Revenge has quite a lot of hype and excitement behind the project.

Let us compare the original arcade game to the new one.

Do you see the difference between this approach and the one Ubisoft took? One was an attempt to modernize an old game, and the other is an attempt to follow up an old game years later. That is how you make a sequel and follow on to an old franchise.

Whether DotEmu manages to capture that spark of the classic game or not, the attempt is certainly more welcome than the previous attempt. Going back to the past is sometimes the only way to move to the future. And this is how it is supposed to be done.

You can see the full gameplay trailer here.

So, in the end, the more things change the more they stay the same. The industry that worked so hard to salt its roots and destroy its heritage has successfully split from those who do not wish to do this. The result is a fissure not likely to ever heal, one that was caused by those with more ego than sense. It will never have the chance to heal, because one half of the divide is going to sink into the ocean before it figures out what has happened to them.

This is what out of control egoism does.

In the meantime, the creatives will continue to be creative as the dross falls off on their own. The industry is not in the same shape it was even a decade ago, nor does it have parasites sucking its blood like leeches in an attempt to kill the entire operation on the level of those old game journos. All that is left are those who want to make games, and those who want them. they have essentially created their own NewPub.

And that's the best thing to take away from this whole mess. As bad as things can get, they do always end up turning around at some point, in ways you will never imagine. What will come next? We can only guess.

But there's always a chance at something better, as long as we never forget where we came from.

Check out how to survive in this no climate with a Pulp Mindset!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Renegade Swords!

Find it Here!

For those in the mood for more classic sword and sorcery, you should definitely look into the recent Renegade Swords series by DMR Books. Inside you will find reprints of classic stories that have been neglected over time.

Today I would like to present to you the recent second instalment which has the exact sword of action and wonder you are looking for. If you are unfamiliar with the genre, this is the place to start your journey into it.

The description:

"Once again DMR Books delves into the vaults of the past to unearth tales of swords, sorcery, and mighty heroes. In Renegade Swords II you will read about such adventures as the struggle of Rackhir the Red Archer to rescue Tanelorn, Fal the Reiver’s encounters with darksome spirits on Samhain night, the bloody life of Hialmar of the Æsir, and more. These eight stories (many of them rarely reprinted) will surely satisfy every aficionado of heroic fantasy fiction.

"Stories included:

“The Roaming Forest” by Michael Moorcock
“To Rescue Tanelorn” by Michael Moorcock
“Marchers of Valhalla” by Robert E. Howard
“Killer” by David Drake and Karl Edward Wagner
“The Unlawful Hunter” by Keith Taylor
“The Haunting of Mara” by Keith Taylor
“The Pool of the Stone God” by A. Merritt
“Stoneskin” by John Morressy"

Once again, you can find it here.

Of course, I should also point out the first entry, as well. For those who are interested in the second instalment, you are definitely going to want to check out the first.

The description for that one:

"If you constantly crave tales of swashbuckling heroics and fiendish wizardry, Renegade Swords is for you! Eight fantastic tales have been selected for this anthology, each of them obscure or overlooked in some way. You don’t have to explore darksome crypts to discover incredible ancient treasures—you can find them in Renegade Swords!

"Stories included:

“The House of Arabu” by Robert E. Howard
“Necromancy in Naat” (unabridged version) by Clark Ashton Smith
“The Woman of the Wood” (previously unpublished version) by A. Merritt
“The Slaughter of the Gods” by Manly Wade Wellman
“People of the Dragon” by Lin Carter
“The Pillars of Hell” by Lin Carter
“The Rune-Sword of Jotunheim” by Glenn Rahman and Richard L. Tierney
“Princess of Chaos” by Bryce Walton"

Find it Here!

It's a great time to be a reader. With NewPub constantly pumping out new material, and books like this putting out reprints of classic material, you will never be short on things to read.

And there is far more to come this year! both new and old, there is plenty more on the horizon. You can count on it.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Out of Credits

So many sequels

We go on a lot about Cultural Ground Zero here at Wasteland & Sky, and that is for a very good reason. You know it's real, even if you don't mention it out loud. There isn't an individual alive today who isn't perplexed at the absolute stagnation in art and entertainment or as to how nasty basic discourse has gotten. Those who grew up in the '70s, '80s and '90s, could wake up to a new idea every morning and meet strangers they had something in common with, but by the '00s all of that seemed to stop. Hence why we are trapped in a nostalgia vacuum for older decades that will end when the Millennials finally cease charge of the culture. We are at the end of nostalgia.

Old IPs are now milking farms for endless rehashes and distribution of new morals opposite the original intent. Companies never seemed to fail anymore, and newer ones never get a foothold to grow to the size they could pre-Cultural Ground Zero. Billion dollar marketing campaigns advertise the same properties which fill every ad space, telling you remember those old things differently than they actually were. 

Both the '00s and the '10s are two of the most creatively stagnant decades, and it says a lot that there has never been a nostalgia movement for them when the current wave for the '80s and '90s has never really stopped since the latter decade ended. Be all accounts we should have had '00s decade back in the '10s . . . but that never happened. It never will.

Back in the early '00s, the one industry that appeared to escape this limbo of endless corporate regurgitation was the video game industry, which is the last industry to achieve natural success without inflated advertising budgets or dumped money from outside sources to hide its glaring weaknesses and failures. While everything else appeared to flatline and die, only gaming soldiered onward. It's a bizarre case, but one eventually becoming clearer as it suffers from what everything else now does. Somehow it got a stay of execution by 10 years, unlike everything else. So, what happened?

I shouldn't have to emphasize on the history of the medium. It's all fairly standard for anyone younger than a Baby Boomer. The 1970s shaped and formed the basics of what a video game was. The 1980s' high energy was the creative flowering of the industry, leading to its massive worldwide growth. The 1990s perfected those old ideas with PC and console both hitting their zenith by the middle of the decade. By this point, video games had been in their high golden age for near a decade. The remainder of the 1990s was spent moving into 3D and transposing all they learned into this new space. Eventually this path lead to where we are now.

But the strangest part of all this that happened was that video games had survived Cultural Ground Zero and retained their popularity and quality when everything else had tanked. And again, it's the only industry to do this. Every other one shrank in the '00s to their current dead state.

No industry had a better 1998 than video games did

It speaks of a strange turn of events when 1998 lead to the death of so many industries, but is still frequently looked on as one of the best years in gaming. In fact, game sales increased following the massive popularity and launch of the PS2 at the start of the '00s. It then climbed, rising further every year, until 2007 . . . about exactly a decade after Cultural Ground Zero killed everything else dead. Then they began their decline. And the same things that killed those other industries are the same ones choking at video games right now.

The previous video game generation was the first to show absolutely no creative growth at all. No new genres or ideas. No new IPs that offered any sort of new gameplay opportunities. Unless, of course, you're Nintendo, but they can't and don't emphasize pwetty gwaphics, so they don't count. Nintendo, in many ways is the last flickering sparks of the golden age of the industry, so seeing how out of joint they are with what is currently going on is eye-opening. If you want to know why they are called down for "rehashing" while series like Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, Uncharted, Halo, Far Cry, or Gears of War, continue on with 0 innovation for near two decades and still get glowing praise, the answer is quite simple. The charge is weapon they can use to get rid of what they don't like while keeping what they do.

One objective look back at the Nintendo Wii, without the game journalist baggage will show you an innovate system that actually tried new things, had plenty of niche and creative ideas, and has a library that has aged far better than Sony's and Microsoft's efforts from the time. Those two companies are making the same games with the same controls on the same basic system. Nintendo's last three systems were wildly different from each other, attempting to actually create new gameplay experiences. Which is, what I might add, what every single video game system did before the PS2.

Yet you've been trained by the industry to prefer the approach that led to the current bankrupt state of the industry. If you're still mad at the Wii for "waggle" or "lack of HD" then you really are missing the point. It sold for a reason, and it wasn't because "normies" are dumb. Hard to justify that charge when you willingly bought the PS4. Keep mashing that X button during the cutscene, hiding behind chest-high walls, and aiming down your iron sights like you've been doing for near 20 years. That's truly fresh gameplay.

But that's beside the point. All of this false conflict is part of the problem, and it's been with us for over a decade now.

What happened? What allowed video games to continue rising but then also submit to the same flaws as every other industry did almost exactly a decade later? Was it witchcraft, sheer chance, or hard work? Very much not.

Like those other industries that are currently crashing, they got too big and aren't allowed to fail anymore. This leaves them in a perpetual creatively bankrupt state, unable to die or rise again. They got this way by letting their success get to their head, mostly from the limited success of the AAA big budget video game.

Once the writing was on the wall that video games were pulling in more money than the dying Hollywood system, that was the chance for the same investors, suits, and hacks, to jump on board and steer the industry in the "correct" direction. It's yet another poseur situation. Unfortunately, the video game industry was too naïve with an inferiority complex (which they still have, just look at any time Cliffy B or David Jaffe salivate over the most recent flash in the pan interchangeable movie game) and swallowed the lie that they had to be C-grade movies in order to survive.

Hence, the creatively bankrupt state the industry is in now. It's a result of all of the above.

As writer and musician David V. Stewart says:

"Then 2007 happened, and as far as the bigger publishers are concerned, games reached their peak and no more change or risk was required or even advisable. Gameplay seemed to stop changing almost entirely after 2007, and the extent to which it did change is usually in the negative, involving the watering-down of mechanics and general reduction of difficulty.

"Of course, there were plenty of amazing games prior to 2007, and plenty after, but when it comes to innovation, all the big players seem to have lost it, and it’s indies that keep the flame of gaming alive. But in 2007 there were still great games made by AAA publishers – games that had great gameplay and amazing production and presentation."

And these large corps had the exact foothold they needed to get in the industry with HD. This is the root of the issue. If the history books don't say that HD development is what killed the old video game industry, then someone was either lying or not paying attention.

You see, HD development remains extremely costly to this day, requiring far more resources and funds than they did before. It requires teams of hundreds to create games that once only needed anything from one to a couple dozen. This bloated budgets and made every project a sink or swim endeavor. This is before you get into the absurd costs for advertising and middle management which cling to every game like uncooked gristle. You're looking at several million to make games that used to be made by small teams for a sliver of the budget. This is the elephant in the room no one wants to address. Games now cost far too much to make. Period.

It now costs several times the amount of money to make games that were not even as in-depth as the games that came out a generation earlier. This is an unavoidable truth that no one wants to talk about. You were already doomed to lesser experiences from the get-go, and it's all because of the pwetty gwaphics crowd that game journalists fostered.

And yes, you can blame this crowd for swallowing it whole. You can still find articles admonishing a smaller company like Nintendo for not jumping into HD and potentially killing their company for tech that wasn't even standard at the time ths system was in production. Because it wasn't. The Wii is still hated, despite offering games that actually played different and new than ones that came before, offered shelter to niche publishers and developers who couldn't afford the new landscape, continued legacy IP while also created new ones, and still made heavy bank while doing it, pulling in far more profit than Microsoft or Sony did during the very same generation. If anything, it was the Wii that carried on what new consoles were supposed to do besides just offering pwettier gwaphics.

And yet the Wii is still looked down on as lesser while the HD twins are seen as the "true" gaming systems. All while everything the latter did is what is currently killing the industry with the same rehashed systems and software for well over a decade now. Somehow C-grade movie games became known as "core" experiences while 2D platformers and adventure games became known as "casual" during this period. This was the smartest that game journalists had ever been, successfully carrying water for an industry change that the industry didn't need.

Professional journalism for "core" gamers

How no one foresaw any of this leading to where we are now remains a mystery. The writing was on the wall way back then.

The elephant in the room, however, is that there is a body count created by the HD cult. This is another factor that aided in reshaping the entire medium. While we like to say how great the HD era was from a creative standpoint, the fact of the matter is that it was the truly creative that were destroyed during this exact time period.

To this date, the first HD generation (2005-2013) has killed the most developers and publishers in the history of the entire gaming industry. Yes, including the original crash. 

As a result of the move to gigantic budgets and sneering at the poor plebs who couldn't afford it, the middle market was obliterated. All that was left by the end of the '00s were the billion dollar top dogs making their movies and the cutesy no budget indie games making puzzle platformers. all of this happened in a single console generation, and no one has batted an eye over it. Any "creativity" you remember from this era was the last gasp of the sacrificial lambs to get the industry in the exact state it is in right now.

3D Realms - 2009
7 Studios (Activision) - 2011
Backbone Vancouver
BigBig (Sony) - 2012
Bizarre Creations (Activision) - 2010/2011
Black Rock (Disney) - 2011
Blitz Games - 2013
Blue Fang Games - 2011
Blue Tongue (THQ) - 2011
BottleRocket - 2009
Brash Entertainment - 2008
Budcat (Activision) - 2010
Castaway Entertainment - 2008
Cavia - 2010
Cheyenne Mountain - 2010
Cing - 2010
Clover Studios (Capcom) - 2007
Codemasters Guildford - 2011
Cohort Studios - 2011
Concrete Games - 2008
Deep Silver Vienna - 2010
DICE Canada - 2006
EA Chicago - 2007
EA Bright Light - 2011/2012
EA Japan - 2007
Eidos Manchester - 2009
Eidos Hungary - 2010
Ensemble Studios (Microsoft) - 2008
Factor 5 - 2009
FASA (Microsoft) - 2007
Fizz Factor - 2009
Flagship Studios - 2008
Flight Plan - 2010
Free Radical Design - 2009
Frozen North Productions - 2010
FuzzyEyes - 2009
Gamelab - 2009
Game Republic - 2011
GRIN - 2009
Helixe (THQ) - 2008
Hudson Soft - 2012
Humannature Studio (Nexon Vancouver) - 2009
Ignition London - 2010
Ignition Florida - 2010
Incognito Entertainment (Sony) - 2009
Indie Built (Take-Two) - 2006
Iron Lore - 2008
Juice Games (THQ) - 2011
Kaos Studios (THQ) - 2011
Killaware - 2011
Killspace Entertainment - 2011
KMM Brisbane - 2011
Krome Studios (operating on a skeleton crew) - 2010
Kuju Manila - 2009
Kuju Chemistry - 2009
Kush Games - 2008
Locomotive Games (THQ) - 2010
Luxoflux - 2010
Mass Media (THQ) - 2008
Monte Cristo - 2010
Monumental Games - 2012
Midway Austin - 2009
Midway Newcastle - 2009
MTV Games - 2011
Multiverse - 2012
Nautilus / Sacnoth - 2009
NetDevil - 2011
Ninja Studio - 2009
Outerlight - 2010
PAM Development (Take-Two) - 2008
Pandemic Australia (EA) - 2009
Pandemic LA (EA) - 2009
Paradigm Entertainment - 2008
Pi Studios - 2011
Pivotal Games (Take-Two) - 2008
Propaganda Games (Disney) - 2011
Pseudo Interactive - 2008
Rainbow Studios (THQ) - 2011
Realtime Worlds - 2010
Rebellion Derby - 2010
Red Octane - 2010
Rockstar Vancouver - 2012
Rockstar Vienna - 2007
Sandblast Games (THQ) - 2008
SEGA San Francisco - 2010
Shaba Games (Activision) - 2009
SOE Denver - 2011
SOE Seattle - 2011
SOE Tuscon - 2011
Sony Liverpool - 2012
Stormfront Studios - 2008
Straylight Studios - 2009
Team Bondi - 2011
The Code Monkeys - 2011
Titan Studios - 2009
THQ Studio Australia - 2009
THQ Digital Warrington - 2009
Transmission Games - 2009
Universomo (THQ) - 2009
Venom Games (Take Two) - 2008
Vicarious Visions California - 2007
Visceral Australia (EA) - 2011
Wolfpack Studios - 2006
Yuke's Company Of America - 2010
Zipper Interactive - 2012
Zoe Mode London - 2009

This doesn't count the studios bought up only to be used as resource fodder for fat AAA series like Call of Duty. Developers like Radical Entertainment and Raven Software, for all intents and purposes, don't exist anymore. Only their name does. They might as well be called Dev Team A and B.

And if you're counting, that is over 100 studios in a single generation. That isn't even all of them. Some of these companies had been around for decades, and it only took a single flop to kill them outright, when that wouldn't have happened in the golden age of the industry. That nobody noticed how dangerous a precedent this entire climate set is why we are in the situation we are in now.

Again, keep in mind that this was only over the course of ONE generation. Whereas a studio could survive a few bombs back in the day, with the new AAA obsession with graphics and bad cinema that these studios could not afford, and the now-bloated costed for making games, studios simply couldn't compete anymore. This is the real legacy of HD gaming. And as a result of this "core gaming" obsession, many non-AAA studios were outright murdered.

You'll even find a lot of coping in the above comments blaming used games, bad developers, or even piracy, oblivious to the fact that there has never been a slaughter of studios at this magnitude in the history of the industry. for some reason, core gamers really wanted their movie games and would do anything to get them. Unlike those pleb "casuals" who enjoyed genres that had been around since the industry started. They weren't serious gamers because they didn't care about graphics!

Do you see yet how backwards and inverted the industry got during this period?

At the same time, internet connectivity was now standard in every console, even the Wii. What this allowed were two things to grow. Patches had now come to consoles and with the overstuffed size of HD games, were usually necessary to fix all sorts of bugs and glitches unable to be caught in testing. The other thing that became standard was the appearance of digital games. Now they could see you horse armor and digital licenses to their product! By the end of the generation, these two things would define how things would be going forward.

As Mr. Stewart continues:

"2007 was within the first year of the 7th generation of gaming consoles, which includes the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii. Even though these released earlier (and hence why I mention some launch titles above), most of the “big games” of that generation landed in 2007 or took off in 2007. The graphical fidelity leap was immense, more than any that followed, and just as large as between each of the 4th through 6th generation of consoles (SNES, ps1, ps2. These new “next gen” consoles released as physical media consoles, but were transformed over their lifetimes into (mostly) digital consoles.

"That’s a big shift. Games companies of course want to emphasize the digital game now, mostly because it directly attacks the used games market. You can’t resell or trade away a digital game. This generation saw the ubiquitous “Day 1 DLC” and day 1 patches of games, but most of these trends hadn’t caught on in 2007. For the most part, games shipped finished, just like on the PS2."

So now you have bloated, broken, unwieldy games designed by corporate mandate to follow a specific mudgenre formula to appeal to the widest demographic of people possible. This oblivious to the fact that gaming was already a successful industry before this wannabe Hollywood system was invented. The things that built the industry, the ideas, the fun, the stability, the variety, and the creativity, were now a distant second in priority.

At the same as this melting down of traditional genres, you no longer owned your games. Now you were buying licenses to play these glorified movies until your console broke. this worked great, because console makers, at a certain point, would no longer fix your system for you. AAA 1, Gamers 0. No more used market, and no more legacy titles.

The corporate drone mentality that gaming had fought off so well in the '80s and '90s had finally consumed the industry to thunderous applause. It had been saved from the casuals!

And it worked.

Until it didn't anymore.

As writer and editor Brian Niemeier writes:

"Throughout the late 90s and early aughts, the movie and video game industries were pretty much neck and neck in terms of revenue. That intra-entertainment industry competition stopped being a horse race in 2007, when gaming pulled decisively ahead - doubling Hollywood's take that year.

"Don't think for a second that video games' passing of this benchmark escaped the suits in the corner offices. Attaining twice the moneymaking power of Hollywood marked vidya's graduation from a niche hobby to a serious business. They money men had found a new golden goose, and they stepped in to make sure it kept laying the exact same eggs forever.

"And like David observed, it all happened in 2007.

"What we're seeing the results of now is big game studios throwing pretty much every hit game franchise into the corporate IP death cycle milking phase. All major game IPs from Call of Duty to WoW are endlessly riding a loop from the milking to death to reboot phases."

In case you were wondering why gaming rehashes old properties and ideas as much as Hollywood rehashes '80s and '90s nostalgia, it is for the same exact reason. They are incapable of creating anything new out of the mudgenre hole they have dug themselves into.

Hence you will be seeing "subversions" of properties as recent as Mass Effect, Gears of War, or Uncharted, for the same reason you see unwanted reboots of the Powerpuff Girls, Ghostbusters, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They can't do anything else. This is the creative pit they have dug themselves into, and they expect you to give them money for doing nothing but flipping the same broken table over and over. This is the legacy of the HD generation of gaming.

Though you can pin the blame on events that happened much earlier that lead to this state. Nothing truly happens in a vacuum.

Looking back, seeing megacorps like Sony and Microsoft horn in on console gaming was probably the writing on the wall for the way things were. No company could compete, especially with these powerhouse companies that were willing to go into the red to carve out a large piece of the pie (which Microsoft has suffered for most of the run of its Xbox brand) that smaller companies simply couldn't do or compete with. Remember the phony "Hardcore Vs Casual" gaming that was foisted upon you during the HD gen? I referenced it above for a reason. There was no coincidence as to why this conflict popped up when it did. One was pushed by billion dollar corps to get you in the exact state you are in right now. And guess which side the game journos were on?

All of a sudden those who wanted  "new" things and desired companies to "innovate" were fine with rehashes and shallow movie-like experiences. Because it was the "correct" kind of rehash. And would you know it, the giant corps wanted it to.

Isn't that just a kick in the teeth?

Here are passages from an old look at the 2009 game New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This was a game the press really wanted to fail and were completely flummoxed when it ended up outselling every Call of Duty game that generation. This simply couldn't stand, not when Innovation™ was happening! A platformer from a 20 year genre is not good enough, not when we have FPS games that are shallower and offer less than similar games from 20 years ago. This is how absurd this console generation really was.

These quotes aren't the writer's full opinions, but if you noticed, all of them had to start their segments with the same negatives right off the bat.

A 2009 game housing outdated mechanics was just unacceptable!

Only one of these "rehashes" is okay with journos.

I eagerly look forward to the same sort of look when the next Uncharted game comes out. After all, 15+ years of an unchanging formula is not good enough. Surely we will get articles exactly like this when we get an exact repeat of the last crappy console generation!

But we won't. Because the way the industry is now is exactly the way they've always wanted it to be. This is why you never hear about cries of "innovation" from game journos anymore. They don't want it and they never wanted it. They just wanted the old ways to disappear and to have their industry treated like the big boys--a "real" industry like Hollywood or OldPub.

And they almost got their wish.

By the time Sega was shoved out of the console industry in 2001, the landscape had already shifted tremendously. Arcades were dying and as a result so was classic gaming, 2D was outright demonized, and here come these big corps offering hats of money to development studios to create exclusives for their systems with abnormally high failure rates. Game journos saw stars in their eyes--they were on the forefront of a revolution! This was as far back as the late '90s. You can find this mentality in a lot of gaming magazines and early internet sites.

Corporatization was already there. You just didn't notice it because you were distracted by the 3D graphics arms race and hating people who enjoyed new types of controllers and old genres. The distraction worked.

By the time everyone noticed what had happened, hundreds of companies were closed, dozens more merged to form undead monstrosities, and mudgenre product was being shoveled out at quick pace to fill store shelves. And for some reason we still hunger for even pwettier gwaphics and more expensive games despite this path proving to be a dead end from everything that is currently going on. At some point, this warped ideal of "progress" all it ever became about.

And that's why the entire industry is already on the decline, even if you don't see it.

None of the industry insiders that were screaming for innovation, actually wanted innovation. If they did they wouldn't be defending the current dying state of the industry to their dying breaths while writing articles informing everyone who will listen that their audience is dead. Meanwhile, they will continue to make excuses for the sad state of things, even as their industry is on the wane. You would do good to stop carrying water for them.

It would be difficult to maintain optimism if there weren't new middle market and independent studios coming up in the wake of this disaster of an industry. I've already mentioned New Blood Interactive in previous posts as a company deliberately going back to the roots of first person action adventure games and starting there. Games such as Dusk, Amid Evil, Fallen Aces, Faith, and Gloomwood, are all far more interesting and fresh looking than anything AAA is putting out.

There there are studios such as Top Hat Studios, who somehow almost always manage to gather controversy for simply publishing interesting looking games that still push a button or two. Nonetheless, they are providing new experiences AAA will not.

Then there are the smaller studios such as Prime Cut Games putting out games like Zealot, featuring a priest wandering forth to slay pagan demoniacs from the land. It's an action RPG of the sort that hasn't been standard in a long time. You can find just about anything from the smaller studios if you look deep enough.

By the same token, you can find lists of upcoming platformers, adventure games, RPGs, shootersaction adventure, horror, roguelites, and even building management sims. There is plenty of creativity left in the industry. It's just not in the mainstream AAA industry. You actually have to find it for yourself.

And that's probably the future, at least for now. Just as NewPub is overtaking OldPub and Hollywood is collapsing under its own rotund girth, so to will AAA cosign itself to the dustbin of failed 20th century industries that failed to uphold its charge of delivering the patron their goods.

Eventually, everything gets set right again. What that means for the future of these industries isn't clear, but at least we can see that terrible present isn't permanent.

Things change. Next time they will change for the better.

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