I recently watched a presentation and Q&A session with Ken Levine, director of Bioshock Infinite and co-founder of Irrational Games. The video was interesting enough, but it wasn't until the final question was asked that I really started to think about the video game industry and what developers like Irrational mean to it, The question, and I'll paraphrase for those that don't want to watch the clip below (skip to 1:40:41), was from a gamer who really enjoyed Bioshock because of the thematic plot and the choices that he was forced to consider.He was curious as to why more developers hadn't taken to this formula. Levine's answer was simple, but poignant. The designers at Irrational "don't wake up in the morning and think 'today I really want to elevate the industry.'" They make games that they like about stuff that they are interested in.
It felt really great to hear him say that because I am always disappointed when companies start carbon copying each other to the point where all you see is the same game with a different coat of paint. I've recently been told off from comparing video games to movies (and rightly so), but I think the analogy works in this instance. One of my favorite movies is Amadeus, the dramatic retelling of the life of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It has funny moments, serious moments, and an obviously amazing soundtrack and I really enjoy it. But I don't want to see Amadeus every time I go to the movies. Sometimes I want to see Gerard Butler running around with a machine gun or Kristen Wiig running across the street in a dress looking for a toilet.
Now I loved Bioshock Infinite and it's definitely on my list for Game of the Year, but I don't want every game to be Bioshock Infinite. If every developer tried to force thematic storytelling or FPS mechanics into every game then the industry would become even more stagnant. We already see enough of this homogenization with yearly CoD and Assassin's Creed releases. And whenever a game becomes successful, there will always be some company trying to "piggy-back" that success with a rushed clone of their own. So it's refreshing to see that there are still developers out there (and a lot of them from the independent scene) that don't want to keep making the same games as everyone else over and over.
I like having variety because there are too many experiences to miss out on if you just stick to one type of game. Games like Journey, the Walking Dead, and Ni no Kuni would have been overlooked if I sat around waiting for the next Bioshock to be released. I hope developers like Irrational keep doing their thing without shifting to something else because they see another company have success. Without variety, gaming would simply be boring.