We the People: A Call to Gamers Everywhere.

By Ben

In the wake of Square Enix and High Moon Studio’s recent layoffs, I decided to take the time out from my ongoing showcase of portable gaming to touch on a topic a little more somber.

 

The video game market has been a fickle mistress since day one. With the now notorious burying of the E.T. Atari game, to the ESRB formation in response to Mortal Kombat, to a lack of strong female protagonists in games, video games have had their share of ups and downs. On one hand, the newest Call of Duty game is sure to earn more money than the largest budget Hollywood film. On the other, those juggernaut AAA games dominate a market oversaturated with predominantly the same genre of games. Of course you have your little indie games that come out on Xbox Live or PSN, but in the past decade there has been a serious lack of innovation within the game industry. And this is a problem.

I love my shooters. I love my Halo, Borderlands, Far Cry, hell I’ll even lump Gears of War into this. But what I really want to see is those titles and that genre standing shoulder to shoulder with something, if not brand new, at least unique or creative in its genre. These days, even I, the consummate FPS enthusiast, have grown weary of the genre and the lack of innovation. Yes we have gorgeous graphics. Yes we have fantastic storytelling in a genre that has never been known for such. And yes we have a bleeding in of features from other genres that make the current run of FPS and shooters have more depth and variety than ever before.  Sadly, though, it truly is the same thing rehashed in a new package and slapped back on the shelves. I want something new. I want something…more.

Now, we can’t be completely one sided in this. We have been blessed with indie titles such as Braid and Minecraft – the latter of which is the bestselling XBLA game of all time and is on this author’s list of top 10 games of all time – but we are still missing what has truly made our medium grow from a simple past time to a full blown obsession; variety. For every Minecraft or Super Meat Boy, we have a dozen Call of Duties or Halos. This ratio is completely sided and completely unnecessary. This causes one of the greatest hardships a game developer can face. This causes what anyone with a career would dread to face. This causes creative minds and peoples to be cast aside to save company revenue so that they can just barely make it. This causes layoffs.

Layoffs aren’t good, regardless of what angle you are looking at them from. From a corporate standpoint you lose valuable assets in people and skills, and you lose revenue and support from the consumer. Consumers don’t like to see a company acknowledge that they had to make cuts. It shows us that the company may not be able to make the grade and the quality and credibility of the product may suffer. The employees, both those that are laid off and those that remain, have to make the adjustment that they either won’t see these people, this family, that they have worked with for potentially many years anymore. Those that leave face financial hardship, self-doubt, and can become bitter. None of that is conducive to a successful re-entry into the industry and make those individuals have to work all the more hard to get back on their feet. Those that stay face the task of continuing on with less people, potentially doubling the workload. Of course there is also the ever present, “am I next?” No one wants to feel like anything that can be viewed as the slightest bit subpar could cost them their job. This feeling of paranoia causes more harm than good. Product suffers under stress and doubt.

In the end, we the consumer lose the most. We lose faith. We lose quality. We lose respect. We lose security. The interesting thing about this? We are the cause. Sure, you can chalk partial credit up to overly high expectant sales and promises of better profit to investors, but in the end it is our dollar that speaks the loudest. We the consumer show the industry that we will forego innovation and creative in the face of the next big budget shooter, the next big budget action-platformer, the next big budget replica of the same idea seen over and over again. We seem to refuse to spend our money on games that show something new in the works. Whether that is out of fear of a poor experience, based reviews from critics (I hate sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, too influential than they should be), or for the sake of being able to play with the biggest and “best” game on the block, is subjective. It could all, or none of these. The bottom line is we shape the industry perhaps more than any other consumer base in any other medium. Our demand is heard before the supply. We aren’t shown a million and one TV pilots and sift through them to keep which ones are on the air, we tell the game developers and publishers to their face, we want this game and we want it now!

I’ve seen it said by reviewers, developers, fans, my wife – shit I’m sure my son will say it when he gets to the age – if there is anything that can be done to solve this issue it is to get out there and buy those games that float under the radar. Buy that new puzzle game. Buy that quirky RPG. Buy that unique fighting game that lets you shoot rabbits out of your ass, for God’s sake. Just go out there and buy games that you will enjoy regardless of reviews, regardless of whether it’s the biggest title, regardless of whether, “all your friends play it,” just get out there and buy! Show the industry that we – the gamers – refuse to accept that our industry is stagnating. We will show our support to the indie developer. We will no longer sit idly by while creative people are cast away because a game company can’t make enough sales to keep them on the payroll. And, by God, we will show the world that we are what we say we are. We are gamers. We are those that love the medium, those that can recite lines of dialogue from classic RPGs, those that catch ourselves humming the Legend of Zelda over world tune.

This is a call to arms, my countrymen. And whether anyone who reads this, or no one who reads this, takes heed of my call, I stand on the rooftop and shout it. We are the gamers, we are the heralds of the industry, and it is we who can make mountains of men. We influence the market, the market doesn’t influence us. And from one gamer, nay from one geek to another, I say it is time we showed that market that we refuse to let creativity die.

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