If you were to ask this question 20 years ago, you might well get a completely different answer from today’s generation. It’s absolutely mind-blowing how much video game content we have on hand these days. There are constantly active social feeds going off at all times around the globe, each displaying various information on the next upcoming trend – whether it’s a new game, news, reviews, leaks etc. Even if you choose not to follow, this information still seeps through the cracks, whether it be from sponsored links, ads tailored to your search engine entries, YouTube/TV ads or even posts liked by your social circle that just so happen to appear in your news feed.
The video game industry has blown up since the dawn of the Internet and the psychical world still holds its own too. Now this may be true with nearly every form of entertainment. But the way we consume video games and their media never used to be anywhere near the magnitude it is today.
Rather than bringing us together, gamers can tear each other apart because of what their platform of choice is. Why? Not everyone likes the same things.
It’s not just video game media that’s changed though, video games themselves have massively spiked in popularity, and they’re now a commercial phenomenon, appealing to the most casual audiences with characters and consoles becoming household names. The industry consists of multi million dollar projects, which make up an impressive $90 billion dollar industry, as of 2015. Video Games as a medium now share a close likeness to film – due to the sheer jump in visuals, writing and game play we’ve seen in the last 20 years.
The medium is one of the fastest growing forms of entertainment. Which barely even existed 30 years ago. Can you remember when gaming was a relatively underground activity? When games existed in just a 2D pixel based format, the evolution in terms of time has been drastic. As the medium grows so rapidly, so does the selection that comes with it, with each company wanting to get a piece of the pie, which they then in turn can feed to us consumers to make a substantial profit.
Fallout 4 seems to be a huge contender for GOTY, but still has to fight off an astounding amount of competition.
I’ve recently created a list of all the games I’m hoping to get my hands on in the coming months. Two of those titles sit high upon my wish list perch – Fallout 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront. Although I may not want the many others as much as these two, the others that sit beneath it still call out for my attention through a vast form of media. With my recent trip to EGX I got a reminder of just how many games I have my eye on going into Q4 – Uncharted Collection, Assassins Creed Syndicate; which seems to have made a triumphant return in terms of reviews and from what I’ve played.
Call of Duty Black Ops 3 also makes its way onto the list along with Rainbow Six: Siege and Just Cause 3. Each game cleverly marketed to draw my attention – mostly through nostalgia I’ve noticed. Call of Duty with its throwback to Nuketown and emphasis on Zombies, Battlefront with its authenticity of the original trilogy and Fallout 4 with the expansion on all of the good points from Fallout 3, moulded into something even better.
Companies often like to hone in on our Nostalgia. Nuketown is a firm favourite amongst COD fans.
Now I know I’m not the only one who would love to pick every single one these titles. The media I consume each day insists that I have them all. I’d love to play the majority and each one has been fighting for my attention through adverts, promotions, etc. But when does it all just become too much? How much time do you really have? How are you expected to keep up with everything, not just with the games but also with the media that comes with it?
Do you ever get that feeling like you’ve missed out on something you should have played way back, but at the time there was just too much choice and now it’s come back to bite you in the arse. For example Mass Effect is a series I always wanted to try out, but due to the already overflowing market I never ended up picking it up. Maybe it was financial constraints due to blowing my budget on other games that were released around that time, or maybe due to already devoting a lot of time trying to get through other games.
The new Mass Effect trailer looks outstanding, but with all of these other games on offer I really don’t know if I’d find the time to play through the series.
When Andromeda was previewed the media and gaming community went crazy for it, yet I feel as though I missed out on everything that came before it and feel like an outsider looking in on something I don’t feel part of, but should, even becoming scrutinized by certain folk because I was never part of the series in the early days. I’ve also seen this happen to others on Twitter most recently with the likes of the Fallout series.
It’s not just the consumers that can sometimes suffer, companies can also feel the squeeze in such a saturated market. People pay with their wallets and its survival of the fittest. But is it really too saturated? Do we have too much choice as gamers? Is that a better thing, which then in turn equals more competition?
Do you just pick and choose, hoping the game you want doesn’t flop after spending your hard-earned cash on it, while others that may not have been as appealing end up rising in popularity after you’ve already laid down your moolah elsewhere. It’s so brutal out there, for both seller and consumer at times.
If games don’t sell the prices take a massive cut too. With so many on the market you can end up picking up new games for half of their retail price, just a few weeks after release as the companies fight to keep themselves and their games afloat. It really is that cutthroat. People complain that games are too expensive, even though they’re the cheapest they’ve ever been. If your game isn’t pulling in an audience then the price won’t stay as high as its initial release. Games like GTA V can remain at their first price because of how popular they are while others take a nosedive in order to sell the copies that remain.
Not many games can stack up against GTA V in terms of popularity.
Trying to keep up with all of the latest gaming trends, what’s hot, what’s not, what you should be playing, what you shouldn’t be, who’s streaming what, the most popular YouTube video doing the rounds, FPS this and 1080p that, all the different types of memes and gifs, hateful comments, Gamer Gate etc, etc, etc. JUST STOP, ARGH! It all just gets a little too much at times, doesn’t it?
The way everything is extremely scrutinized, the cutthroat market, the endless choice, marketing that reveals every minute detail about a game it ships, the uninviting media, the annoying YouTubers, the swatted twitch players, micro transactions, season passes, pre-order bonuses and DLC. Remember simpler times, when none of this even existed?
Thinking back to when I was a child I was allowed one game for Christmas, maybe two if I was very lucky. The deciding factor would come from a few screenshots on the back of a box or the cover artwork on the front. That experience of buying a new game, travelling home, reading the cover front to back, actually reading through the instruction manual. All of that now just a distant memory often thought back too in a flicker of video game nostalgia. I’d play the games I had over and over, numerous times, I’d know the ins and outs of every part.
I put countless hours into Legend of Zelda: A link to the past, as at one point, it was all I had to play. Attempting tough puzzles and feeling a real sense of achievement once I’d progressed further. Whatever happened to putting in the groundwork?
Games weren’t as accessible as they are now, you’d actually get your money’s worth. You wouldn’t play a game for five minutes, get bored and move on. You wouldn’t buy games in a sale and let them gather dust. You’d dedicate yourself to them. I’m not saying that’s what all gamers are like, but it seems the attention span of many has greatly reduced over the years.
It’s not just the short attention span though; games are just much more accessible these days. I have countless games sat on my shelf, still in the cellophane, in my steam or PlayStation library, all un-played, hoping to see the light of day, but I’m no octopus, I can’t play everything at once. I get a game, play as much as I can, then before I know it, its old news and the media and gaming community are all focused on something else, I then feel like the un-cool kid in the playground who isn’t on board with the new fad and before I know it, new games are out, time moves on and the old stuff, still un-played, gets left behind. The 10-year-old me would have never let that happen.
Through the year I’d mainly have to rent games but each rental was decided on my own accord, what I thought looked good, regardless if it was or not, it was ME that made the decision and I felt no marketing or peer pressure in doing so. You’d discover hidden gems and amazing experiences, like getting lost in a library of amazing new worlds. Memory didn’t matter; your handful of MB on your memory card was sufficient enough. You’d play games first hand – mainly knowing nothing about them, apart from a blurb on the back or a paragraph in a magazine – that was it.
Yeah some were lacklustre and not worth your time. But remember the ones that were worth it, the ones you knew hardly anything about, you’d become engrossed in their worlds or get lost in the story, yet you’d essentially go in blind, knowing very little about them as opposed to how much we know of a game, pre-release, now.
Look at No Mans Sky for example – Murray and Hello Games are negatively criticized for not revealing much information about the game. I’m sorry, but that game looks intriguing enough as it is and I’d rather find out about it for myself when I have it in my own hands.
Playing Minecraft for the first time, without any idea of what it was, how to play, or what I should do, was such an amazing experience. Something that made me think back to a time when each game I tried was like playing Minecraft for the first time.
Remember when Minecraft wasn’t even a thing, yet when people first jumped into that they knew nothing, no instruction manual, no tutorial – you just played first hand and worked it out for yourself. Just like how it used to be. You’d play games due to how engaging and fun they were. How a game looked, in terms of visuals, just didn’t matter. You’d share a couch with friends, it was a social thing – playing co-op, competitive split screen multiplayer, conducting mini gaming tournaments for FUN or taking turns handing the controller to one another after each turn. That is but a distant memory with most games.
The couch never used to be this lonely.
Yet now people are constantly connected, with a camera and microphone in their face, sat on a specialized “gaming” chair, pondering over YouTube or Twitch or arguing in forums over FPS and Display Quality, something that was relatively unheard of. Everything has become so competitive; if you aren’t winning, then you’re a loser.
Some games even offer you the option to skip levels if they’re too hard, what happened to actually putting the effort in and retrying until you got it, you know, when games actually taught you valuable life lessons – not to give up, to always keep at something even if you fail over and over, to put the time, effort and work in, in order to reap the benefits, rather than paying your way out of something, skipping a level, paying to win or progress. It baffles me how anyone would rather chose the latter.
The fact that the invincibility leaf power up, in Super Mario 3D World, is even a thing makes me weep inside.
Remember when fighting games had hidden characters and you’d have to work your way through the roster in order to obtain them, putting the time in to unlock them, now you can just download them from the store or get them free for pre-ordering. The likes of Black Ops 3 allows you to play every level from the get go. You don’t even have to work your way through the game, you can just go right ahead and play the last level if you so desire, never mind skipping sections if they get too hard, this let’s you skip the whole game, period.
What next? An auto pilot button, that when pressed, just plays the game for you while you watch. Some may argue that this already exists in the form of watching let’s plays – now don’t get me wrong, watching lets plays can be fun, but when you hear people saying they can’t be bothered to play the game and that they’d rather just watch someone else play to see what happens, it really gets to me.
Gaming never used to be like this, or at least this isn’t how I experienced video games when growing up. Even though you are constantly connected with people around the globe and the industry is abundant with all different types of titles, video gaming can, at times, leave you feeling isolated or become very over whelming.
It seems with an ever-growing industry the times, values and reasons people play games have changed dramatically. People play games because of how popular they are, resulting in more views on their latest lets play videos, rather than playing what they really love, regardless of how popular it is. I’m not saying this applies to every gamer, but it applies a lot more today than it did 20 years ago.
Maybe I’m just stuck in my old ways, agitated by a fast paced world, everything moves so fast these days, written media is a dying art form, 8 second vine clips and countless snapchats are all the rage. People don’t have time to play games these days, or so it seems. Hmm. I don’t know, maybe that’s how we’ve evolved as a society, not enough time for anything, but still enough time to keep our social feeds up to date.
Maybe it’s time I stopped trying to adapt to every form of change within the industry and take a step back. Chasing trends and gaming fads will never work. You’ll always feel left behind or out of the loop, even if your first to arrive, the party will be over before you know it and you’ll be left wondering why you even attended in the first place.
Stop feeling like you’re left behind. Play what you love and love what you play, you shouldn’t play games for anyone else but yourself. You didn’t get into games because other people wanted you to play, so why become a puppet on a string to please others?
Whatever it may be, we need to remember why we got into gaming in the first place, hopefully for the love of it and the chance to visit amazing new worlds, to get lost in different time periods; whether it’s fiction or non fiction or sharing the love we have for different games and characters.
Forget about all the inconsequential shit and play for your love of playing, as without that, what does that make gaming, but a passive form of media, as we let it pass by in such a fast pace world, watching others experience it, rather than experiencing it for ourselves.
Why don’t you pick up a controller, take an old game from your shelf and remember what made you start playing in the first place.