It is an interesting place I find myself having played video games for more than 25 years (more than half my life). I’m in a place where I’m pretty unimpressed with most of the games that have come out. Most recently I have acquired Assassin’s Creed 3 and Far Cry 3. I love the Far Cry games (even a huge fan of FC 2 – owned it on both consoles) and a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series (and a huge fan of anything to do with American Revolution era) but when I got these games (both of which I wanted very badly) and fired them up I was like “meh”. And there is nothing wrong with either of these games – they look amazing and perform great etc.
I think the issue is me. You have to know a little about me for this to make sense. I hate movies (generally) and I don’t watch TV (other than sports) really. I’d rather read a book – or play a video game than watch a movie or TV series. That’s not to say there aren’t some movies that I love and some TV shows that I can tolerate but really given the choice with my time I’d rather play guitar, do art, read a book or play video games and board games. I’ve never really thought about why this is. I chalked it up to most movies / tv shows being mindless and boring (which I still think is a big part of it). But I think more and more that I need to be an active participant in my entertainment. I need to be able to influence it and I have to be able to use my imagination and creativity in order for it to be worth my while.
Ok well playing AC3 or FC2 I would be given this freedom right? Well yes sort of. But what I’ve come to realize is that I’m just doing the same thing I’ve done before for hundreds of hours in the previous iterations of these games as well is in all the games that have come out in the last few years. Mainstream gaming (even Multiplayer which is typically my favorite type of gaming) has just become very sameish. Like yeah – I’ve done that. A lot of the AAA games lack any type of creativity. They just have “better graphics”, some performance enhancements and maybe like one little tweaked game mechanic that makes them somewhat interesting but they just keep turning out the same thing over and over again. In addition to that I think I’m a little burned out on the game showing me everything. Similar to how I like books better than movies. A book lets you create the world in your head. I tell you that the lady was wearing “a red dress”. You would think of a red dress that would most likely be different from the red dress I picture in my mind. In books we fill the gaps with our own creativity and life experiences. Whereas in a video game or movie – they show you exactly what they want. The red dress is very defined in a movie or video game – no room for your creative input. I find this to be not very satisfying at all – it has become boring.
I don’t think this is to say that I’m going to skip all the high end AAA games or anything but I’m certainly putting a lot more of my effort into indie games. I find indie game developers are putting more effort into innovative game play. They typically don’t have the art studio to be able to compete with the AAA games but they can create some interesting mechanics and try doing interesting things with their games. I’m having a lot of fun seeking out and trying all these innovative little games. The most fun I’ve had has been with an ASCII graphics alpha game called Dwarf Fortress. It has been called the most complex game in the world (I don’t know if that is accurate but it is certainly very deep) and yet it has these simple old school ASCII graphics, which even for me initially was a hurdle. I didn’t think I could get into it. In addition to the ASCII graphics hurdle the UI is pretty confusing. I don’t find it as bad as a lot of people seem to find it – but it can be somewhat convoluted and inconsistent (Tarn Adams (he’s the Developer for DF) has even said as much). Yet after playing for a few hours – you become engrossed in the game your imagination is going full tilt – I can picture the whole fortress and all my dwarfs and animals. I spent 4 hours on Saturday night just looking at this ASCII soup on the screen and I totally lost myself in it. It is a fabulous experience especially given all the super unique and crazy game mechanics in the game and how they create these situations and stories that weren’t put in place – they evolved from the AI and systems kind of interacting with each other in the game.
So with all the hype about a new PS4 and a new XBOX etc. I find myself more drawn to the OUYA. Show me what the indie devs are doing. They have something to say that is worth listening too. I’m 100% confident that the next Killzone or Halo or Call of Duty is going to look and perform amazingly on these new machines – heck I might not even be able to tell if it is real life or a video game but I don’t think it will matter. They’ll be showing me games I’ve already played (albeit in a better looking format) and / or games as they want me to see them instead of letting me have some creative input and that frankly bores me.
I think anyone who has played Minecraft or Terraria or any of the Roguelike ASCII games knows what I’m talking about. The graphics don’t make the game – as a matter of fact high end graphics might actually detract from the gaming experience. I’ll take emergent gameplay and the ability for me to get lost in my own head over high fidelity and “tried and true” game play mechanics.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to put some Nine Inch Nails on and play some Cataclysm or Caves of Qud and get lost in a grimy desolate world.