This Easter weekend, I took a trip back to my home town where i got to see my family and friends. Was rather pleasant, and got to enjoy the country side. Anyway, whenever i meet up with my good friend Nick, we always get into discussing video games and how they've changed, how we've changed, and generally what we like and don't like. This time, he posed me a question; "Do we expect more from games now?" to which i couldn't answer. It's the sort of question that takes a little bit of breaking down first.
So, lets go ahead and break it down!!!
quick note: I'll be talking about consoles mostly. So try and frame the rest of this article that way... Thanks bud!
First, lets all acknowledge that games are not the same as they were 15 years ago. To put how long ago that was, the GameCube has been released (if not, at least announced) and the Dreamcast was on the scene. Games weren't really online, and were either fully solo experiences or local multiplayer affairs.
Jump ahead 6 years, and suddenly Xbox live and Playstation Network became a thing. Games needed to have some form of online offering, and developers were slowly getting to understand how they could leverage the internet in new and novel ways.
And now here we are at present day. Indie games have grown into their own genre in the public eye (they've always been around, but it's now more "a thing"). "AAA" gaming (i hate that term) is now bigger than ever, with larger budgets, bigger game worlds, orchestral music, voice acting, and big ass marketing campaigns.
So, it's undeniable that things have changed, but that doesn't really answer the question; do i expect more?
This is a little bit more difficult to define. I guess, above all, i expect to be entertained ("ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!"). I expect to enjoy myself, and come away with either a smile on my face, or a heavy heart after an emotionally weighty scene.
Fun is one of the main reasons why i bother playing video games. A level of escapism that allows me to forget the world around me for a few hours and just enjoy myself. This can vary, but for me it's usually it's narrative driven with some fiendish puzzles and rewarding combat. But this just narrows down what i like. If anything, I've become more focused on what kinds of games I'd enjoy since growing older; bit like with books, movies, and coffins.
So, games have changed, and i have a pretty solid idea on what i like. Do i expect more from games now?
I guess not. I know what i like, and as a result, i don't think i care if a game has amazing graphics ("Look at the shiny shiny"), or if they have some funky new feature such as jet packs. There are two great examples of this; The Elder Scrolls and The Legend Of Zelda. I'll start with the former.
I got into The Elder Scrolls when Number 4 was released; Oblivion. Which also just celebrated it's 10th birthday this past week. Congrats. I love/loved this game because it painted such a complete world. It had interesting quests. It had a fun combat system. It was just... Somewhere i could escape to and fully enjoy. Fast forward a few years, and Skyrim was released. I didn't buy it for it's graphics (though damn they looked nice; dem dragons yo), nor did i buy it for its innovations (mainly because there wasn't a huge amount), i got it because of the world.
One could argue that Dragons were a "gimmick", but they were part of the main narrative, and continued with the world building. You had to be careful of them. They were a challenge. They were a puzzle and an enemy rolled into one. That's awesome. Not something i expected, but a great addition. I don't require them in the sequel however.
In the space of a number of years, what i wanted from it hadn't changed, purely that i wanted more storyline, and another world to explore. True; without the additions it wouldn't have been as good. But to me, i wanted another trip to Tamriel. And that takes precedence over any new gimmick.
Lets move onto Zelda; that series that's not changed since Ocarina of Time was released in 1998. True, the graphics have improved, and there are new features and abilities, but mostly it's the same game that's been churned out for years. And yet I'll still buy them. They build such a compelling world (for me at least), with great dungeons and colour characters. It's like playing a fairytale of old. It doesn't get bogged down with politics of today, nor does it try to be anything more than it is; a simple tale of an adventurer trying to overcome insurmountable odds. I love that, and it's one of the reasons i love fantasy and sci-fi.
But do i expect Zelda to be more? I expect it to progress in some respect. I would like voice acting to be a thing, and I'd maybe want a more complete world. And that might be because I make that comparison between Zelda and Elder Scrolls, which is not entirely fair.
What i'm trying to say here is that there is no simple answer. I can't say I expect more from games when I play games that don't change much between iterations. At the same time, i do expect some change when it comes to ideas, and in some respect graphics. I think I'd get a little annoyed if Zelda was still 8 bit, regardless of the gameplay.
Well, that was an unsatisfying answer now wasn't it?