Thursday, October 17, 2013

EDITORIAL: You know what's wrong with gaming these days?

Everyone is obsessed with death.

Hey everyone; it's been a while, hasn't it? I've been in a gaming slump lately - Wargaming, RPGs, video games, just...meh. After playing Sola to Robo (a highly underrated DS game), I think I've noticed one of the reasons I've become so burnt out on gaming until recently...

Blood. Gore. Big-ass boltguns and cleaving axes. Super-powers and sniper rifles. Like any other male in his mid-20's, I enjoy my violence, gore, and overall over-the-top badassery; but is there a point where gaming gets too mature? Where all sense of mysticism, wonder, and fantasy that many of us try to re-capture in our various gaming formats gets lost, washed-away in a bloody arms race to see who can be the biggest, baddest, edgiest, goriest, biggest-balls-having manliness contest games in general seem to be going through nowadays? I'm a Warhammer 40k fan - and a big Chaos fan at that (Iron wihtin, iron without!) - but after a while, being bad for the sake of bad just starts to get old. On the subject of my coming Farsight Enclaves, it's been refreshing to play guys who fight the good fight just because they're fed up with the bullcrap going on in the galaxy around them, but even then it's an endless grind for survival, shooting this and punching that just to do it again the next day, month, year, or decade(s) later.

Really? A minigun?

In Assassin's Creed, you're great at killing dudes -
but you suck at shaving.

In video games, look at the top-selling games - particularly on consoles like the upcoming XBOX One and Playstation 4. Granted, the target audience is twenty-somethings like most of us, but...most of it's more of the testosterone-fueled roid-raging race to see who has the biggest stick to wave. Whenever something truly fun but light-hearted comes out, it's either aimed at younger audiences or brushed aside with the perception that it's meant for "kids". I hadn't realized how far it had gotten until I started looking at all the ads on Youtube, TV - and hell, even here on BoLS! Assassin's Creed IV, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Holy-crap-how-many-of-these-are-there, Dead Rising 3, Killer Instinct, Killzone, War Thunder...

Gritty, gritty, manly, gritty, sweaty, gorey, muscles, roids, pewpewpew.

Even in RPGs lately, so many start out dark or end up going that way (maybe I need to find more people to play with?), and it just ends up becoming more of the grind. So, I have to ask you all, the gaming populace:

What happened to the mystery?
What happened to the wonder?
What happened to some good old-fashioned, light-hearted fun?
Is "fun" somehow intrinsically linked to violence nowadays?

I like to think (or at least hope) not.

The aforementioned game, Sola to Robo, showed me that - even in it's simplistic and (sadly) easy format, one can still have a fun, fantastical, enjoyable world without things being just kill-kill-kill and hopeless-grimdark all the time. Some darkness is always good; what good is a villain without being an actual threat, after all? But then what's the point if the hero's just as evil?

And your designs don't have to be ultra-gritty or super-realistic to make an in-depth, immersive world. What is takes is - as cliche as it may seem - heart. Character. Something that, when you look at it, you can tell that the creator poured their heart and soul into, where they did everything they possibly could to bring forth their idea in a way that everyone could enjoy. The artwork, the animations, the music, the setting...this game was in pre-production for seven years. There's multiple artbooks, one of which clocks in at 303 pages! Seriously, check out a few of the images - illustrated by Nobuteru Yūki (Tail Concerto),  Yoshitake Taniguchi (Super Robot Wars), and Yoshiki Yamakawa (Madhouse?), some of whom worked on projects like Chrono Cross, .Hack//, and Escaflowne:

THIS is the kind of thing I miss. It's colorful, it's lively, it's fantastic, and it has depth of character visually on top of it all. It looks like a place one would want to explore, to learn more about, something to fight for, to protect - you know, a reason to be the hero! And you don't need to cleave your way through everyone to put them down; just a good old-fashioned smackdown to show who's boss - though, if that doesn't work, then you may proceed to smoketh thine bitch.

Is this the only example? No. Is this everyone's cup of tea? of course not - and I don't have any disillusions that lead me to think they will be! This is just me expressing my personal concern as a gamer that I think that we - the gaming community as a whole - have begun to grow TOO dark, TOO gritty, and as a result TOO outsider-unfriendly. More games in this vein of thinking that are both accessible to a broader audience while still being good enough to entice mature/"hardcore" gamers are a good thing, I believe, and I for one think we should see a little more of it. I think that we should try to re-capture that spark, that bit of fantasy and joy that just seems to be lacking from so many games and genres nowadays. I mean, why can't the goodguys actually be good guys again? Does a villain have to be a mindless, axe-happy butcher to be considered evil? Can't there be more to fight for then just mere survival?

I think we've drifted too far in the whole "edgy, gloomy, dark" direction, and I feel that the community as a whole could do with a little reeling-back. What do you guys think? Let your thoughts be known - heck, the whole purpose of this is to get you guys thinking! In the meantime, though, I leave you with a video from Sola to Robo; your Southern-stationed fuzzball's got more robot-jockeys to smack around!


  1. Totally agree. Really good piece of writing here.

    At the end of 5th edition 40k, I picked up the new book for 6th and was just very bored with the death and general misery of the game. So I looked around and found Infinity. Which yes, is still combat based, but the factions and universe is much brighter and human.

    Video games are stuck too, despite impressive technical achievements, they are still largely the same formula. As an industry it needs to grow up.

    Things do come in and out of fashion though, I think eventually people will grow bored of the anti hero and turn back to classic 'heart' based heroes.

  2. I'm with you here, and a nice bit of writing.
    This trend of moody antiheroes, not to mention generally forgettable, is why I'm falling out of love with video gaming. It simply feels like the same framework is being recycled over and over.
    I find myself missing the quirky, cute and colourful games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Klonoa and Abe (Oddysee) to name a few. The environments and characters were all so immerisve and fun and they didn't even really need to talk for them to be loveable.
    Violence has its place, because what's a story without some sort of conflict, but it just feels indulgent and lackluster with the typical shooter/slasher w/e.

    On to Solatorobo =D. Looks like a fun game, love the colours, characters and artwork, although it sounds like it got stuck in development hell for a while (7 Years :O). Wish I could play it but I don't have a DS and I don't like ripping off people who developed something like that. No doubt some people would find reason to hate it because of 'furries' though. Lol.