Editor's Note (I've always wanted to say that! Now I just need to squeeze in somewhere "it was touch and go for a while", and I'm all set!): Sonic429 wrote a nice blog about his gripes with the gaming industry. I set out to reply with a small comment and ended up with 1200 words, so I figured the comment deserved its blog as another take on the matter. This is a copypasta of the comment I wrote on his blog, so if you've already read the comment, you don't need to read this.
What happened to gaming is that it's better than ever! Seriously, the only thing I "miss" about the old days sometimes is that I could devote my entire attention to a game for some time without being bombarded by hundreds of other, and that's a rather odd thing to miss :) Of course, I don't really miss it, I just wish I could do better at blocking the info overload at times.There are now games for everyone, everywhere, and they are more accessible than ever, in the good sense of the word (granted, some are "accessible" in the worst possible way). Like everyone else with a PC and increasingly even those without thanks to ever deeper console discounts, I have a huge backlog and still can't stop buying games. In my defense, I do play everything I buy, even if it takes a while, and always finish the good ones. Anyways, here's a small sample of the games on the backburner:
Fatal Frame 2
X-com Enemy Within
Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded
Class of Heroes
Dust an Elysian Tail
Just among these eight games we have classic survival horror, a near photorealistic shooter that pushed modern technology to the limits (and also represents the very worst of AAA excess, depending on who you ask), a colorful platformer, a strategy game (turn based, I think), an adventure game, a Nintendo RTS, a PSP JRPG and an indie game about... something.. Certainly not lacking in variety, much less quality.
No puzzle games because I don't like those, but if you do, handhelds and mobiles especially have dozens of them, and puzzle games can be played perfectly well on smartphones.
Older classics that we may have missed out on are becoming more readily accessible than ever, often with improved remakes. The burgeoning indie scene is great for anyone who professes disgust with AAA "bloat" or longs for more mature/emotional games. And for those like me who are quite happy with AAA "power fantasies", those are great too!
I still play and really like a lot of AAA games, and to me it's really silly that some act like liking (or pretending to like) "artsy" indie games is some sort of badge of honor and not liking them something to be ashamed of. Case in point: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/185885/Opinion_Its_totally_OK_to_not_like_antigames.php
And for all the hysteria (justified to some degree) about accessibility and casuals and DLC and microtransactions ruining everything that is right and holy with games, one I sometimes take part in myself, once I took a step back and just focused on the games... I realized it just hasn't happened yet, certainly not to the point of ruining my experience. Granted, those $60 Xbone games designed around F2P mechanics are rather disconcerting, but there seems to have been an effective pushback against that. And some games have been seriously hurt by a design that encourages microtransactions and DLC. Dead Space 3 was surprisingly good, but the in-your-face DLC shilling and weapon customization system designed entirely around selling you microtransactions were a big no-no. Did it work? Considering I bought it in a $1 Humble Bundle in the same year it was released, I don't think so.
Which isn't to say there is always the consumer reaction against this stuff that we'd like to see. To me, the sorest "chopped from the main game to be sold as DLC" was Mass Effect 3's Protean character. If you know anything about Mass Effect, you know that a protean character isn't just a nice optional accessory, the seemingly extinct Proteans are a core part of ME's mythology, and a Protean party member is A HUGE FUCKING DEAL. Worse, it was painfully clear Bioware designed it as a core part of the game and then chopped it off as DLC. That was really shady Bioware! I love Mass Effect and I really wanted that character, but that was a blow too low, so I voted with my wallet and didn't buy the character as well as any other DLC in protest, even though there are 2 DLC I actually want beyond the Protean. However, EA said 40% bought that stupid Protean, so my vote didn't really do much :(
Even so, this hasn't been a rule among the evil AAA games I play and like, far from it. Assassin's Creed, Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider, Far Cry, Resident Evil, etc etc. All these games have plenty of DLC, but none were designed specifically to sell them, nor did they have core content cut off just to be DLC. Even Call of Duty, the criticisms I hear are largely about game quality and annual release, not about DLC or microtransactions. To say nothing of "AAA lite" games like Bayonetta, Ni No Kuni, Dark Souls, Dishonored, etc etc, which tend to be more consumer friendly and carry a smaller bullshit payload. And then there's Nintendo, who's only now starting to really dabble in DLC (and freaking everyone in the process, which amuses me considering how much people complain about Nintendo being behind the times!), but still very much designing games the Nintendo way.
And now, we can get almost all of those games besides Nintendo games dirt cheap! In the "Golden Age" of gaming, I lived in a country were they were ridiculously expensive and not always easy to come by. I remember that for a time I couldn't even find a pirate copy of Throne of Baal after playing 378374654 hours of BG2, and I really, really wanted to play it!
Now? AAA games cost insane amounts of money to make, and yet I'm buying Tomb Raider for $5, Arkham Origins for $7.5, Dishonored and Bioshock Infinite for $10, even Call of Duty I recently bought for £15 (that's pounds, not dollars, so not as good, but still a massive markdown for a game that used to stay full price for a long time). Heck, even Nintendo is starting to stick its head out of the ivory tower and relaxing it's ultra-rigid price policies with incredible offers like the Mario Kart 8 free game and similar 3DS deals.
And then there's Kickstarter filling the gaps Publishers don't dare to thread and indies are too indie to tackle. My favorite game of all time by a kilometer is Baldur's Gate 2. Those games were sadly dropped almost completely by game companies, leaving me starved for more. And now there are 3 incredibly promising games in this style coming courtesy of Kickstarter: Torment, Project Eternity and Wasteland 2. Kickstarter made possible a sequel to Dreamfall, a game that isn't quite my favorite but had one of the strongest emotional impacts a game's ever had on me, despite the fact it's apparently impossible to relate to a protagonist who doesn't share your gender or even isn't your clone. There's a medieval non-fantasy RPG that looks super exciting, and a new strategy RPG in the Final Fantasy tactics style, another genre that doesn't get much love. And these are just the games I personally backed, there are many, many more Kickstarter games worth watching.
There are reasons for concern and some dark clouds in the horizon that may or may not be avoided, I agree, but right now, to me, gaming is better than ever!