Might as well start out my first blog post with something that will probably piss everyone off, eh?
Amongst most video game communities, there seems to be a lot of hubbub about "hardcore" titles- and to most that is identifiable as a title with "lots of guts and tits". Mad World was toted as a "mature" or "hardcore" Wii title, games like "Gears of war" are identified as a part of the X-Box's "hardcore" market, and it seems to me now that most people consider Halo a "hardcore" title. I've come to believe, personally, that that's all a load of foreskins.
Video games, as a medium, I believe are going in an awful direction. Obviously, everyone has noticed the popular "Space marines fighting aliens. In space." trend- but that's not the half of it. What seems to be happening is that video games are in a "post Star Wars" stage (which I'll explain in a bit). Games were- for the longest time, very close to reaching the stage of genuine art. Of course, not in imagery- but in subject matter. Games like Deus Ex introduced brilliant, intelligent experiences and stories (and even, in Deus Ex's case specifically, dabbled a bit in prophecy), games like Ocarina of Time could have been said to do the same thing for Video Games that Lord of the Rings did for English literature, Grim Fandango made us laugh and truly care about its characters, and Half-Life payed great tribute to classic and contemporary sci-fi literature alike. Even the last generation had some truly great stuff- Half-Life 2, Team Ico, The Wind Waker, etc.
So what happened? As far as I can tell, Halo happened. And that's where I come to "post Star Wars". Halo, a game in which you wield two weapons only, have regenerating health, and play as a space marine fighting aliens, popularized shooters to a generation of teenagers whom Microsoft was all too happy to market a "Direct-x" box to (after all, how much are they making off of an OS?).
Now this popularity catches on- Microsoft (as well as Sony, and Nintendo) notice the "hook"- in simple, easy gaming. Who needs a deep story, when you have a story that seems epic enough on the outside? Who needs a game that's genuinely engaging, when you have a game that's simple and shamefully addictive? When this spirals out of control, the video game industry ends up with what it has now- the "casual" of old, is the "hardcore" of now. A title like "Deus Ex" isn't considered "hardcore" anymore- a title like "Gears of War" though is considered a "gamers game"- a fantastic story (space marines screaming about their wives), epic music (John Williams wannabe, but limited to about 2 themes, encompassing the "inspirational" and "sad" spectrum"), and engaging gameplay (slam your back into a wall as hard as possible and shoot your balls off). It seems now that "mature content" does indeed make a "mature game"- but I think that's the last thing from true.
"Mature content does not make a game "[hardcore", and I will stand by that. Classics like Deus Ex, or contemporary "hardcore" games like Twilight Princess or Never Winter Nights 2 get "swept under the carpet" while bullshit like the overly scaled "Oblivion" gets ass loads of attention. Has anyone noticed how the video game industry is viewed from the outside? "Yes, it seems video games can finally be enjoyed by children, since you can buy them Wii fit! Perhaps video games can be constructive, now that they're about entertaining your bullshit kids instead of being an informed narrative or genuinely interesting" "Oh, it seems children are attracted to the blood and guts of Gears of War! A game about space marines fighting aliens! Ban it!"- and the worst part is we actually used to have arguments against that kind of bullshit! "Woah woah woah, by saying that the video game industry is all about fighting aliens, you're forgetting masterpieces like Zelda or Half-Life or Deus Ex!". What reason do we have to think that we're even above Uwe Boll? At this point: none.
I hope the industry turns itself around. I hope one day someone will be able to use the "War never changes" speech from the first Fallout, and someone will say "Oh man, I remember that quote! That's from that post apocalyptic satire set in California!" and not "Wasn't that that X-box game about killing mutants?".