I’ve learned a few things after reading about what’s happened during the DICE Summit and Awards event that’s taken place this week:
For starters, the industry seems to be crying out desperately for maturity. David Cage (Heavy Rain) says that games need to grow up. Warren Spector (Epic Mickey) says that games like Lollipop Chainsaw shouldn’t be made. The industry wants more Journey and The Walking Dead experiences, as evidenced by these games winning 99.5% of the awards given out. The definition of “fun” is changing, and we apparently need to start accepting that maturity is the next logical step for video games. We’ve heard similar gripes from luminaries like Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish within the last year, too.
For me, personally, I’ve learned that I need to get the heck away from modern gaming given this new direction. I don’t want this at all, a homogenized and sanitized version of video games that rely more on how they make you feel or generating some sort of emotional response. To me, that’s never been what video games have been about. They’ve been about getting away from growing up, from dealing with the pressures and stresses that life brings with it. They’ve been (and continue to be) an escape mechanism. Now these experiences that I’ve enjoyed are frowned upon, not acceptable, and considered immature or juvenile. I’m being told by the same people who I’ve relied on for this escapism that the party is over and that it’s time to grow up in order to be taken seriously.
Luckily for me, I don’t have to do that. Retro games don’t adhere to this new line of thinking. If I want to mindlessly shoot aliens or beat up thugs with my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, I can still have those experiences. I can be reminded of a time before this era of hyper-analysis and reading about how Game A is awful for us because it engages in Theme B or doesn’t include enough of Theme C, which is just unfair and insensitive. Much of today’s “new games journalism” works to go to depths that I’ve never really cared about– because they’re games. Distractions. Methods of escape. Sure, I’ve written a fair amount of game reviews in my life, but they’re primarily technical… talking about frame rates, sound quality, and whether I found the gameplay to be engaging and easy to learn. I’ve never been interested in finding out what makes this character tick or why the character wasn’t a woman instead of a man, or why it’s yet another shooting game because we should be embarrassed to see so many of them. With the retro experience, I’m able to go back to when “games journalism” was “enthusiast press”, and how writers really were enthusiastic about what they covered.
It’s not my place to say that this new, mature direction is right or wrong for the industry. If this is what they want, all power to them and I wish them the best of luck in their transition. I do, however, have the ability to divorce myself from this trend and go my own way because I refuse to conform to it. I’ll stick with my NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, my Genesis, and even my PlayStation 2. I’ll still talk about my own experiences, to anyone who wants to listen. I’ll go my way, modern gaming will go its way, and an amicable split– much like we saw recently between SuperBot and Sony– will result.
I think I’ve learned this week that this is really the best possible outcome. I’m disappointed, but not angry. It’s been a tremendous 30+ year relationship, but all good things come to an end. As I mentioned last year, it’s a case of irreconcilable differences.