I play video games and I have fun doing it, but I want them to be better. I find myself getting bored of most games far before I get anywhere near completing them. I see people talk about games having “a great story”, but I’ve never found any game’s story to be even as interesting as a mediocre movie, let alone a great movie or book. The story has never been good enough to motivate me to churn through the tedium that every game inevitably throws at you to fill itself out. I think that’s done by game developers because gamers always complain when a game is too short. I’ve never found that to be a problem, though… I don’t finish any games, so in my opinion most of them are far too long!
Another problem with games today is ‘sequel-itis’. Game makers are worse than the worst filmmakers about milking a successful ‘franchise’. I loved Guitar Hero and played it for hours on end, and then I loved Guitar Hero 2 even more.. but I found myself playing Guitar Hero 3 mostly just to unlock all the songs. I think Guitar Hero 3 is a superior game to its two predecessors, but the concept is already feeling tired to me. Rock Band was so popular mostly because it took the next step and added an extra layer of group fun, and the ability to play drums and guitar is definitely pretty great. Despite that, though, I found myself tiring of the game pretty quickly. They keep releasing new for-pay songs you can download which should keep the game fresh, but I just find that I never really play it any more. Rock Band IS a great party game, and playing it with a big group of people is some of the most fun I’ve ever had in front of a television, but it just doesn’t have the same appeal when I’m playing on my own. The newness is gone, and without that there’s just not enough left to keep me interested. Grand Theft Auto IV had the same problem for me. It looked pretty, but I felt like I was just pretty much playing the same game I had burned myself out on several years earlier with Grand Theft Auto III. Give me something new!
Here’s what I think would make games more fun for me… Game studios should bring in the same level of writing talent as they do programming, design, voice, and graphics talent, and they should release games in smaller, lower-cost (both for them and for us), episode-like chunks. The very best game developers should still be making full-length games of very high quality, but most game developers do not fall into that category. Most game developers are really making TV-quality content while they’re trying to convince us it’s high-class film-quality content. Game studios should also stop killing their best ideas by sequeling them to death. That probably makes more money in the short-term but it’s just turning off many would-be gamers and ultimately restricting the development of the audience for the game industry.
I know I’m not the only one thinking this, and I think there’s already a movement towards my suggestions (as if anyone in the game industry really cares what I think, haha) so hope is not lost! The smaller, cheaper, downloadable games on the Xbox Live Arcade, the Playstation 3, and more recently the Wii are breathing new life into gaming. The games are not all great (few of them are, actually), but they’re small enough in scope that a lot of new ideas are being put into them and some of them are worth paying for just for that. The episodic concept is being put to the test with games like the Penny Arcade one, too. I still didn’t finish that one, but I think I got probably 3/4 the way through it, which is something for me!
I bet the people making the games don’t really care too much about what I have to think, but I feel better to have that off my chest anyway.