Saturday, March 11, 2023

Weekend Lounge ~ Left in the Dust

It's been quite a year so far, but spring is just ahead of us. I think we're about due for it, especially after the winter that just wouldn't end. We could use some warmth.

Before we get to that, let us take a break. That is what weekends are supposed to be for, after all. I would like to share a few videos from YouTube on things that we lost along the way to the great future we were supposed to already be at by now. Let us reassess where we might have stumbled along the way, and how we might orientate ourselves anew.

For those who remember back when video games were actually for everyone, as opposed to being dumbed down for a mythical wider audience that doesn't exist, they might think on a time when gamers would play anything, as long as it was fun. Believe it or not, there was a time when the gameplay itself was the reason people picked up a video game. If you were a kid in the old days of the medium, you played RPGS, platformers, sports games, shooters, strategy games, point and click adventures, puzzle games, and even racing games. Yes, even racing games.

This was because genres didn't use to be walls, they were signposts for varied gameplay experiences that everyone used to find fresh experiences. No one stuck to their corner and dismissed everything outside of it. It wasn't like it is today.

Believe it or not, back then what mattered was quality. As long as it was fun and the gameplay was solid, we played it. Genre ghettos didn't exist. Now that they do, everyone tends to keep to their own lanes and rarely do they venture out of them. As the video linked above shows, the reason for this is partially because of the people who make the games now. Somewhere along the way they forgot where their very medium came from, and now endeavor to forget it on their quest to find the perfect audience that doesn't exist.

Sound familiar?

At some point, the gameplay became secondary to aesthetics and image, getting into the genre clique's good graces, and their quest ended up chasing out the majority of the audience for a fringe niche that continues to hold said genre back from doing anything interesting. Yes, we've seen this mentality before. The Fanatic mentality is not just a problem in genre fiction. As the video shows, it has become an issue in gaming, too. It's even worse there because they haven't had decades of revisionism to tell them the past was bad and must be destroyed--they only have a decade and change of it. But we've covered that before. It is the same poisonous mindset that must be abandoned if one cares at all about their medium of choice. The past is not an enemy to be destroyed.

The AAA mentality in gaming ate away at ambition and creativity, leading people in the industry who should know better down a road of ignorance, arrogance, and just plain disrespect to the very medium they profess to love. There are plenty of examples where modern developers will outright spit on those who came before, despite not being able to live up to them in the slightest. Again, it's a familiar attitude, and one not without precedence. There is no love, no sense of gratitude, no attempt to make art or connect with others. It's just selfishness all the way around. 

Not even creators of formerly beloved properties can escape the siren call of the Fanatic as he embraces his ego over the art. That's right, it's not just newer people, but even those who should know better are proving that they do not. This is how you know when the Golden Age of an industry is long gone and forgotten by those inside of it.

The perfect game even exists that demonstrates this exact process happening. You might be thinking of several, there are many similar examples, but this one sticks out for the simple reason that the people involved should have clearly known better than they did, and just didn't. Feast your eyes on the perfect example of AAA failure that is Lawbreakers. This story isn't one people will forget anytime soon because of how absurd it was.

For those who need some back story, one of the people involved with the rise of gaming megacorp Epic Megagames and helped it into what it is today, somehow completely forgot why people played video games in the first place and created one that simply flatlined and died in record time. It is quite the story, but not uncommon among former celebrity figures in an industry that cares more about appearance than gameplay..

This isn't even to say that Lawbreakers was necessarily a bad game. The quality of gameplay wasn't even the main selling point of the game, and has little to do with its failure. The point of what happened has little to do with the quality of the product. This goes beyond game design, and into everything surrounding what caused such a product to exist in the first place, and where it very quickly ended up. This is the sign of a creatively bankrupt industry.

It isn't the perfect example of AAA hubris because they aren't unaware that AAA is killing gaming. They even understand the problem with the market, but complete misdiagnose the solution and lack the self-awareness to see that they are part of it. And it ends up resulting in, well, the exact industry we are trapped in right now.

This is Lawbreakers:

It's hard to watch that rather short video and not marvel at how clueless the industry has become over the years. It took OldPub decades after the 1930s to completely destroy their past; it only took AAA a mere decade after going HD to obliterate their industry. From racing games not understanding their base appeal to race, to the creators of beloved classics no longer getting what audiences clicked with their creations in the first place, the spark has just been completely lost. AAA is gone, and now it is in the slow slide into the muck.

The old industry is dead, and it isn't coming back. The future will not be coming from them, but by the mavericks outside the system. It is time for better ways.

The last thing I want to leave you with is one more video about a video game franchise that came from the old days back when gaming just went HD. This is one of the last original franchises that came around before everything sank into the mudgenre and developers were slaughtered and gutted to make conveyor belt games. This game is Dead Rising, specifically the game in the series that ended up killing both the studio that made it, as well as the franchise itself.

For those unaware, Dead Rising was a game with a unique design, especially for HD. You were dropped into a zombie apocalypse situation with a time limit to get your wider task done. You then needed to fit your playtime around getting said task done in said limit as best as you can. Your performance would then net you the ending you would earned from your choices therein. The entire game was wide open with many places to go, but that just made it harder to reach the goal you wanted to reach. Every playthrough in Dead Rising was a new chance to figure out the best path forward and get the best ending. It was a good wrinkle and mashing up of arcade design and open world gameplay that no one else has done before, or since.

So naturally they made it into a franchise and, AAA being what it is, ended up turning it from a unique experience unlike any other into another mudgenre open world game with no defining features. In other words, they turned it into the opposite of what it once was, because AAA is anti-gaming at the end of the day. It is merely bad movies and busy work disguised as gameplay. Dead Rising 4 was so bad it killed the franchise stone cold.

This is how you successfully kill a successful creation and wear it as a skinsuit: you do what they did to Dead Rising. Keep in mind, it only took one decade from the original game to do this. That is how fast AAA has deteriorated into what it is today.

AAA is over, OldPub is over, and Hollywood is over. We are going to need to look to be sources before we lose these mediums entirely. There isn't anything left to be gained by supporting an industry holding back its own potential.

It is time to leave them in the dust.

That is all for today! Take heart in the knowledge that we can now clearly see the problems that have plagued us for so long, and now we can finally get to work working them out. It has been a long time coming. The AAA industry might be dead, for much the same reasons as OldPub now is, merely living off the momentum of past successes they do not understand in the slightest yet think they should profit off of, but there are other places to go where the medium still thrives. There are always alternatives and, especially today, they are are frequently the better options.

You don't have to put up with those who wish to destroy, whether intentionally or not, but can instead find creations on par (and in some cases, better) than what came before. Inspiration and creativity still exist outside the mudgenre money pit that is the modern industry, and that is the case with every medium today.

You just have to know where to look. Ask around and you'll be surprised at just how much good stuff there is. And there is more of it all the time.

Have a great weekend!


  1. Oh yeah Capcom really knows how to kill the Golden Goose. Dead Rising, Lost Planet, Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Mega Man etc.... They've routinely destroyed their biggest series. It's like a game company full of Boomers or something.

    1. MegaBusterSheapard.
      It much worse it's programmer who fancy themselves as filmmakers and not game mechanics. JD has pointed this penchant whever he reviews the history of gaming.
      The programmers in particular forgot about coding challenging but fun game mechanics and concentrate on movie grammar. Loom I like the immersive 3 worlds they've created but the game mechanics suck because they want Netflix contracts instead of just fun games.

  2. Gosh yes. I got drawn into Destiny 2 at launch because the story and gameplay was just so fun. Fast forward five years to the latest expansion, Lightfall, which is a Destiny skinsuit. Everything I loved about the game is gone. It's bad movies and busywork, like you said. Meanwhile, my son just showed me Dinkum, which is like Animal Crossing/Dragon Quest Builders, only set in Australia. I love indie games!

  3. One of the demons that plagues video games is that because they're so tied to technology, it's common for people to assume that newer automatically means better. I can't count how many times I've seen kids insisting that "games have evolved so much!" to dismiss older games when the reality is that games if anything have actually gotten significantly dumber. Graphics and sound are more polished (not bringing art direction into it), but actual design has consistently devolved.