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THE VT » Blog Archive » Video games, consumerism, and redundancy

Video games, consumerism, and redundancy


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Video games are doing very well. Business is good, innovation is in, and the real winners are the gamers. By all logic, you’d think that things couldn’t possibly get better. You would say “Golly, I just don’t see how games could get any better! They’re perfect!” Well, Billy, you’d be wrong.

You see, games still have a long way to go. Sure, there’s the obvious stuff like better AI and graphics and the expensive new storage mediums to put it on. That’s a given. The issue is that there are now two branches of gaming going in very different directions. There’s the casual, quick experience, pick-up-and play games and there’s the no life, sitting in the dark by yourself, swear-and-throw-shit-at-your-TV games. The former is pushing forward because it’s in the middle of a revival, but the latter is home to some great but very tired and formulaic games in recent years. What would really be cool is some sort of combination of the two. A fairly simple game with a lot of depth under it’s simple gameplay. A game with the production values of Halo 3 that your grandmother could play and enjoy.


Who would play this sort of monstrosity? Why, you, of course, and many people you know. One of my biggest beefs in gaming right now is that nerds still rule all the plot-driven games. I honestly could not give less of a fuck, at this point, about sci-fi or fantasy. The problem here is that there aren’t really “art house” games. All independent games are usually far too low-budget to really do much beyond introduce some sort of interesting gameplay mechanic. The big studios won’t bank on a plot-driven game without aliens or violence or going on a quest to save something.

Video games have a lot of potential. They’ve become time wasters, obsessions, and simulations. Usually what’s being simulated is a particular thing that most people can’t do, like flying an airplane or playing a professional sport. What I would really love to see, and what I think there is a market for, is playing through a dramatic story-based game set in the real world. Little to no violence, played in first person, with very simple core gameplay. The depth would come from interactions with non-player characters and various decisions made along the way.

This style of game has been explored in the past, but that’s exactly the problem. As technology progresses there can be smarter NPCs, more story branches, more realistic worlds, and with todays budgets maybe some professional screenwriters coming up with believable and dynamic characters. Right now the games industry is stuck in a bit of a rut. The games that get praised for their excellent narratives and thought out messages usually fall back on familiar gameplay in popular genres. Bioshock, for example, totally breaks the mold when it comes to storytelling in games. So does the Half-Life series. But they still tell stories that involve a bunch of stuff you have to kill. I would like to, for once, play as someone with more typical human goals. Games can be used to put you in the shoes of human beings different from yourself and nobody is really exploring this. They’re still stuck as an escapist medium with no real meaning.

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9 Responses to “Video games, consumerism, and redundancy”

  1. brokenglass Says:

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    The first person shooter is probably the genre that has the most potential and sees the least amount of innovation. It’s truly the genre that tries as hardest to live the whole virtual reality concept. The constant use of turning them into heavy gun games are one of two games. If you’re on the more pessimistic side, you could say that all we really wish we could do that we can’t do IRL is commit a mass murder. If you’re not that sadistic, I would say it’s simply because in real life, when you need to defend yourself, you use a firearm.

    Bioshock is definitely a game that didn’t need as much killing as it did. The Half Life series is a different story as I view that as an action movie where you are the hero (which let’s face it, we all envision at some point).

  2. Rank Says:

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    Honestly, it sounds good but why would anybody play a videogame where you walk around and talk to people and pretty much be playing a life simulator. As if paying my taxes and spending twenty minutes walking to class isn’t boring enough, now you want me to do it in a video game?

  3. Rank Says:

    Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/klic/public_html/vt/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

    WTF, do comments need approval or something? Because I’m pretty sure I submitted a comment and see a lack of it

  4. fewr Says:

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    Pride and Prejudice THE GAME.

    Good job btw, I can’t criticise what you write, except maybe the assumption that it is not possible to like both sides of gaming and that you forgot to tie the beginning with the end in order to give the beginning a reason to be there, but I’m being too picky so ignore me.

  5. Kevin Says:

    Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/klic/public_html/vt/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 82

    Yes, there’s approval on comments.

  6. balohna Says:

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    I know that a non-violent game (potentially, not by any sort of rule) wouldn’t appeal to everybody. The idea here wasn’t virtual reality in the classic sense, but instead putting you in control of a protagonist in a story. Sort of like a Bioware RPG minus the questing stuff. Your “progress” would be advancing the story and living this life as a person different from yourself. If it were a movie genre it would be “drama”, which can’t really be said for many games.

  7. stick Says:

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    Shenmue was close to what you’re describing. I don’t remember if the third was ever released though…

  8. Cake Says:

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    a real life simulator for me would be someone sitting on their ass and playing CoD4

  9. Phlash Says:

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    Very good article balohna, but those kind of games already exist. They are called rythm and beat game. With games like Guitar Hero, hardcore gamers can upload their leet skills onto sites like youtube, whereas noob games have fun just trying it out and playing it.

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