ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Thursday, October 03, 2013

What’s Wrong With Video Games (A Ranting Response)

This week’s post is going to be a bit different than usual. A friend of mine recently pointed me to a certain video by way of Google+. In it, BlimeyCow’s Jordan Taylor rants about what’s wrong with videogames. His arguments aren’t particularly new or original, but it’s worth watching regardless. Take a look:

Today I would like to respond to this video and make a few comments to all the gamers out there. Because the fact of the matter is…

I Agree…

Yes, I agree that games have grown too simple, too repetitive, too boring, too banal(*). I’m not just talking about games that are “cinematic”, on-rails experiences with lots of quick-time events, either. When developed properly and viewed as interactive movies, I think there’s a place for this kind of game—sometimes. What makes me cringe is the reaction that games like Call of Duty and Battlefield and Halo get. Halo was once an innovative production and Call of Duty served as a decent enough history lesson, but let’s face it, these days there are very few redeeming qualities about military shooters, and most popular games are some form of military shooter. The genre is thoroughly exhausted, yet it remains the hottest seller on the market today. And what happens when you take away the military part and you’re left with just a shooter? Invariably you get zombies to pick up the slack. A devastating infection wipes out a third of the earth’s population, blah, blah, blah. We’ve seen so many walking dead by now that even the most grotesque fail to shock or scare anyone.

So yes, there is something wrong with video games. In that sense, I think the video at the head of this post is dead on. So long as Battlefield of Duty: Attack of the Halo Zombies keeps selling, companies will keep on making it, but that’s telling of something else: the creators aren’t making art. Now, you can make money for your art and make your art for money and that’s fine, but when something has fallen from artistry and you’re still making it, there’s a problem.

So that’s one side of it. But it just so happens that also…

I Disagree…

Where the video at the head of this post falls flat is that it fails to specify that these are primarily problems with western video games. Thankfully, other areas of the world don’t seem to be so severely affected by these negative trends. Gamers in the east aren’t so preoccupied with blowing up hordes of NPCs and developers aren’t so inclined to try and get them to be. They want artistry, meaningful stories, catchy music, and deep gameplay. This is the crux of the Japanese Role Playing Game.

I’m just going to say it plain: come on, people. Broaden your horizons. Stop playing Call of Duty.


Am I suggesting that you should decide what to play based on what I say you should and shouldn’t?


Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and that certainly includes video games. But for goodness sake, stop supporting companies that put out the same game year after year and charge a premium for it.

“B-b-but haven’t JRPGs really gone downhill this generation?”

I hear comments like this a lot from people who assume two things: 1) Final Fantasy is the only JRPG series out there, and 2) it would be just terrible to play a game for a last-gen console. Because that would be, like, you know, totally not cool beans, bro.

That reasoning is just plain invalid, folks.

Play some classic Final Fantasy. Play Fire Emblem. Play Monster Hunter. Play SMT: Persona. Just these few games span a variety of current-gen platforms. They’re accessible. And if you go back a generation or three you’ll not only find these, but many, many other great games as well.

Now if you want to tell me that those games are too difficult to get into as someone who’s never played a JRPG before, then you’ll get my sympathy. We all have to start somewhere. In that case I’d recommend the recently released Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX (or the original Kingdom Hearts games, if you’re still rocking a PS2). Whether or not you’re a Disney fan, these games will show you the ropes of JRPG mechanics in a friendly way that’s easy to pick up and learn. Don’t have a Playstation? No problem. Pick up a Chaos Rings game for iOS/Android, or Final Fantasy III or IV. These are full JRPGs for mobile devices, but they’re simplified enough for their platforms that they make good starting points.

“But I’m just not into Japanese stuff…”

Ok, that’s fine. Try Mass Effect. Try Tomb Raider. Give Deus Ex a shot. Each of these games combines role-playing elements with traditional western shooter mechanics and great, deep storylines.
In the End…

The point is, there’s no excuse for Call of Duty’s sales figures. Video games are primarily a storytelling medium, and only just games secondarily. While there’s nothing wrong with what essentially boils down to virtual paintball wars, there’s so much more and better things that can be done—and have been done. There’s no art in paintball—just splatters. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for it on occasion, but it does mean that it shouldn’t take priority, and the insane popularity of modern shooters is completely unjustified what with the other games that are on the market.

We live in an amazing world that is more connected than ever before. Try something new, perhaps something that didn’t originate in your home country. There’s no reason not to, and considering more and more gamers are coming to the conclusion that western gaming is getting repetitive and boring, it’s well worth looking around and seeing if perhaps you can find something that you really like but that’s totally different from your usual taste. Other gamers have. Value depth, a good story, and artistry over what gives you the best adrenaline rush.

Better games are out there. Play them. That is all.

*(That’s pronounced buh-NAHL, by the way, not BAY-nul. You learn something new every day.)