Gaming Continues Its Spiral Downward

I don’t play very many video games these days, which is weird since I’m a professional game critic at www.cubed3.com, and since I’m even an editor at the same site. My computer contains somewhere between 2000 and 3000 games–all the NES, SNES, and N64 classics, plus my favorites from the GBA, PSX, PS2, and GameCube. I removed all the ROMs I had on my computer because that’s emulation and emulation is piracy and piracy is illegal.

On top of that, of course, there were 80-100 games installed through the devil incarnate known as Steam, and then a multitude of other games that were either grabbed from the Pirate Bay purchased from some other site or just weren’t DRM heavy. My 3DS sits inside my table (it’s not actually a table–I don’t know wtf it’s called, but it has these sort of pouch things) with roughly 30 games in a case beside out, not to mention the dozen or so that have been downloaded thanks to review codes with Cubed3, the many I’ve purchased from Nintendo’s bullshit eShop, and the ten that came thanks to Nintendo’s Ambassador program.

And the only game I’ve really played lately was the re-release of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D, and the only reason I purchased that is that I love the freaking game and always have. The only reason I ever kept a functioning N64 was for that game–it’s the best aerial dogfight game out there, and being Star Wars is irrelevant to that. I’ve still only got 3 hours in it in the past two weeks, and I’m probably going to write a review for it, but…

Blah.

The last game that I bought that I truly enjoyed was Super Mario 3D World, and before that… they were all Indie games or old games. The fact that I’m playing a game that is nearly two decades old and rolling my eyes at the recent remake of Doom should say a lot. When I decry the lack of creativity in video games, Hollywood, music, and literature, I’m almost always met with the response…

“Well, what do you expect? Everything has already been done.”

What an ignorant statement.

People have been saying that asinine crap for centuries. I’m sure people were saying it the day before Hendrix showed up and redefined hard rock. I’m sure people were saying it the day The Fellowship of the Ring released. I’m sure people were saying it when the Impressionists stepped outside and began painting the world. I’m sure people said it before Elvis rose to fame, before the Beetles happened.

No, this “repeating the same crap over and over” bullshit is there to bide us over until the true artists come along and shake the world. Our species has been creating entertainment for only a few thousand years; if we have already reached the pinnacle of our creativity and “done everything there is to do,” then the next billion years are going to be extraordinarily bleak.

As I said, this repetitious crap is here to keep us entertained in between the greats. We need stuff to read, to play, and to watch, so a few tweaked lines of dialogue and character traits are vastly preferred to simply re-reading the same wonderful story that we’ve already read, right? I’m not so sure–at least, it’s not for me. I’m more likely to re-read the Harry Potter books than I am to read any of the copycats that have since spawned behind it.

Pokemon is probably the best example of how stagnant video games are, and how gamers don’t appear to even notice. Huxley’s Brave New World is eerily pertinent–in his dystopian novel, the masses of people were kept entertained and distracted from real issues because they never noticed that they were devouring the same products over and over. People scoffed at the notion, yet here we are–with Doom being released again, with Pokemon on its eighth game (I think, and can’t be bothered to check), with absolutely nothing of note distinguishing the various games.

The Zelda franchise has been re-releasing Ocarina of Time for twenty years, and gamers have been oblivious to it. Minor graphical updates, moving a few things around, and replacing keywords in the story–bam, new Zelda game.

Part of the problem is that game designers learned back in the 80s how this works. They release something people like. So they release a sequel that is drastically different, but related, because they didn’t just want to do the same thing all over again. And people freaked the fuck out, gave these sequels terrible reviews. So developers went back to the original formula, tweaked and improved it a bit, and then released it again.

It’s how we’ve ended up with a gazillion Symphony of the Night clones. For fuck’s sake, what is the difference? What is the difference between Circle of the Moon, Aria of Sorrow, and Symphony of the Night? They’re all the same goddamned thing–they’re all just Castlevania 2 upgraded, tweaked, and enhanced.

The same thing happened with the Zelda series. The Legend of Zelda was freaking awesome, and rightfully earned its place in gaming history as a masterpiece. When it came time to make a sequel, Nintendo took it in a vastly different direction, and fans cried foul–it’s widely disliked, even though it’s actually a damned good game. So what happened? Nintendo went straight back to the original game, updated it, tweaked it, improved it, and re-released it as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

The Castlevania series did the same thing. Starting with the first, it proceeded to Simon’s Quest, which, while it does have real problems, isn’t bad enough for all the hate it gets. Konami immediately fell back to the first game, tweaked it, updated it, improved it, and re-released it as Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.

Original, Sequel, Prequel.

That’s the fucking formula.

Batman Arkham Asylum. Batman Arkham City. Batman Arkham Origins.

Kingdom Rush. Kingdom Rush Frontiers. Kingdom Rush Origins.

And I know–I know beyond any shadow of a fucking doubt–that the next Tomb Raider will be a prequel. Why? Because that’s the fucking formula.

The Legend of Zelda. The Adventure of Link. A Link to the Past.

And yes–Castlevania III was a prequel.

What comes after the prequel?

Why, a remake of the original, of course!

And the fucking cycle repeats again.

Video games are a vapid wasteland, and even those series that break free of the tradition of Original, Sequel, Prequel, still aren’t releasing anything that’s actually new; they’re just releasing hodge-podge amalgamations of other games’ mechanics, like how the remake of Tomb Raider was part Gears of War, part Minecraft, part Final Fantasy XIII, and part Resident Evil 6–and that’s horrendous, since RE6 was already a mismatch of disparate game mechanics mashed together into a cacophony of nightmarish bullshit. The gaming industry has six or seven Frankenstein monsters, and it chops them up and mixes them up, sewing them back together and going way heavy on the duct tape with such reckless abandon that it’s no wonder every game being released is exactly the same as every other game being released.

Why would I play Skyward Sword when I can just play the original game that it’s copying?

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