The Faces of Change in Video Games
Taking a look at my recent hair change, I'm wondering why developers are so afraid to reinvent or change their franchises. This blog is just a small musing on how I wish developers would take more chances.
I’m not quite sure why gamers are so afraid of change. I recently watched GameTrailers “Top 10 Fallen Angels” segment and their comments about Splinter Cell confused me. While they are right in stating that the series is now becoming homogenized, they belittle “Splinter Cell: Conviction” for straying too far from the series’ roots.
Why is that a bad thing? Is it wrong to have reboots and reimagining with franchises? Looking at the upcoming “Metal Gear Rising,” the comments and threads are just ridiculous. People criticize Kojima for not doing anything different with MGS, but then yell at him for trying to make another game in the same universe. I don’t understand it.
I grew up with Mario and Zelda and you’d be hard pressed to find two games within the series that follow the same style of play. While more recent Mario titles are adopting a similar art style and there are a few direct sequels in Zelda, almost every game looks and plays differently. It’s great seeing seven interpretations of Link, all so bold, pronounced and true to the original.
Going back to Metal Gear, even those games follow entirely different setups. No controls or aesthetics change, but each title centers in on a different aspect of Snake’s training. The original PS1 classic is all about confrontation while remaining silent. 2 is about exploration. 3 is about avoiding enemies at all cost and survival. 4 is practically a run and gun shooter. No game is the same!
For as much flak as Capcom caught with “Street Fighter III: Third Strike,” the game has yet to be replicated. The previous Street Fighter games played with an emphasis on showmanship, where Third Strike catered to the more meticulous and cautious fighter. Hopping between the two is an exercise in frustration as new skill sets need to be learned.
The reason most series grow stagnant and boring is because of their unwillingness to change. I’m not saying you need to adapt to new standards and embrace things like iron-sight aiming or cover mechanics, but why would I want to play what is virtually the same game again when I have the original? Just look at the NES Mega Man titles; Everything is fun and challenging until you get to 4, then the series takes a nosedive.
Or better yet, anything that developer Neversoft gets their hands on. The Tony Hawk series, once a proud trailblazer of genuinely new mechanics, became so complacent with offering incremental changes that the series devolved into an autopilot mode. I could bust out the newest Tony Hawk with no practice and break a few million points.
Guitar Hero became so set on introducing the rhythm genre to new gamers that the later games actually got easier by design. Remember all those tricky hammer-on sections from “Jordan” in “Guitar Hero 2?” Well, now you can just tap the buttons and the guitar will auto-strum. No skill required.
Call of Duty, for all the legitimate things it does right, is so boring and stale now that the campaigns lack any enthusiasm and the multiplayer is simply a means to milk more money out of consumers. Why put actual effort into crafting new mechanics when people will just buy the same shit again and again?
Why do I bring this all up? Well, I recently dyed my hair another color. Over the course of my lifetime (24 years), I’ve flirted with different styles. I used to get mushroom haircuts in elementary school and I screwed around with hair-gel in high school. I’m now into ridiculous colors and I even have a Mohawk!
I’m not afraid of changing myself up. While I may lack the courage to actually speak with people, I’ll never lose that spark of impulse that shows my inner thoughts. I hope that my hair color shows people to expect the unexpected, because I certainly love to just do whatever I want.
Developers should, as well. Instead of treading the easy road of contention, why not mix things up within your franchises? Give me a first person game without guns or puzzles. Give me a platformer with an emphasis on stealth. Give me an adventure game with combat (and that isn’t as boring as Gemini Rue).
I want to see new things. I want to look into the faces of change and come out rewarded!