We're at a stage in the games industry (oh, how it pains my heart to say <i>industry</i>) where there is very little interesting stuff coming out, by and large. Sure, you're getting some cool indie platformers, but they are like snacks between a main course. And that buffet we grew used to from '06 to '09 has grown very stale.
The top three games played on Xbox Live are Calls of Duty, and one more is yet another Soldier Man bland-o-fest. This fall, two more games, EA's Medal of Honor, and (sigh) another Call of Duty will add to that list.
Where's the new stuff? Where's this year's Bioshock? Where's the flawed-but-ambitious equivalent of Assassin's Creed? Let's not even talk about the sequels. Because, while they were good, they were so much... the same.
Perhaps I'm also just getting to old to enjoy games like I used to. The only console game I play regularly now is Halo 3, and Halo Reach will be the only game I play for six more months after.
I've never been much into handhelds, sadly, and I recently picked up a DS on impulse, financing it by selling off a lot of the games that were gathering dust on my shelf. What a joy that little thing is! Mario Kart, Castlevania, Metroid. It's not like they're unique games, but here's the interesting thing:
I can play them while I do virtually anything else.
Waiting for Final Cut to render? Play a little bit of the DS. Hanging out on the porch, watching the sunset? Play DS for two minutes. Got time between meeting clients? Toss the DS into my bag and play a little bit in the lobby.
I used to buy nearly every console game that got released. A couple years ago, that was an intoxicating volume of pure fun. Now it's just sour. Now I can only stand the cream of the crop on the big behemoth consoles. Now a little handheld toy has more allure.
I'm kind of sorry I missed the discussion in the original article about Medal of Honor's portrayal of Al Queda. I have been thinking about this issue with Medal of Honor a lot, and frankly, I'm surprised there hasn't been more talk about it.
I don't have any desire to play Medal of Honor. Not that I don't like to play shooters, or military shooters (quite the contrary) but this seems like the video game version of John Wayne's craptacular propaganda-fest, The Green Berets. Afghanistan is a real, bloody, disgusting war where real human beings are suffering and dying. Why is this becoming bombastic entertainment? There's no appearance, so far, of this game being something as introspective and anti-war as The Hurt Locker.
A company as big and old as EA probably never really had any scruples to begin with, and obviously a boycott of the game is just fucking stupid. I choose to not play Medal of Honor because it is exploitive and does nothing to contradict the official, propaganda line about this ugly war.
Human society imperatively needs introspection, and now more than ever. America has descended to the level of skirting brutal torture of enemy combatants, and even non-combatants. Reports and leaks from Afghanistan indicate cover-ups of civilian deaths at the hands of the very "Tier 1 operators" as Medal of Honor glorifies.
Games are advanced enough to partake in societal discussion. Look at Bioshock. Look at Uncharted 2's portrayal of an ugly war from the perspective of journalists. Look at that famous nuke scene from Call of Duty 4. The fact that Medal of Honor is not making any attempt at social discourse is driven by marketing concerns, and I understand that. But Medal of Honor, ironically, demonstrates no attempt at honorable behavior at all.