Are Video Games Really Getting Worse?
Many people think gaming has dropped in quality
Video games are now terrible! Everything releasing today is generic garbage with no innovation! Why can't people make video games like they used to!?
If you've even been the type to keep an eye on upcoming games or read the comments on game trailers, you've most likely seen these sentiments. There are good reasons why it can feel like game development has taken a nosedive, though I'm going to have to thoroughly disagree with that feeling. Firstly, it's easy to look back at the past with nostalgia goggles. Second, there are actually so many games releasing that most of them are just mediocre. Thirdly, big triple-A games have big budgets for massive marketing campaigns and those hype trains can block the glow of some hidden gems. Finally, if you think it's developers trying to bandwagon on the latest trend, well it's always been like that since the dawn of gaming.
Recently, I was on eGG Network's own Tilted Unf!lt3r3d show as a guest with the topic of whether the rise and popularity of eSports is ruining game quality. On the show we discussed how many games tried forcing eSports elements into a game, ultimately ruining the experience and failing to maintain a solid community, like Evolve. Many people watching voiced their opinions stating that this was a trend that was ruining the quality of games, though I feel like that's an illusion and actually gaming is doing just fine. Here are four reasons why I think game quality is NOT getting worse.
1. The Past is Not A Gaming Utopia
The 90s—a decade of innovation and terrible video games. A few weeks ago, I wrote another article titled '90s Video Games WAY Ahead of Their Time & How to Play Them'. It's a list of 7 games that are a testament to how wonderful and terrible video games were in the 90s. Sure, it was a golden age of gaming with legendary games but it's so easy to forget all the developers failing to realise their ambitions. A common gripe in the gaming industry is that there isn't enough innovation but the games listed in that article are monuments to why innovation is rarely truly attempted. Games like Trespasser and Biosys were not commercial successes. Innovative games are often ahead of their time, they aren't part of the latest trend, so garner little attention and become cult classics at best or forgotten failures at worst.
If you look to the past with a lens on the bad, infamously bad titles can quickly come to mind. In the 80s we had E.T., the 90s had Shaq Fu, and the 00s even had a game called Ninjabread Man.
So whether game development is being innovative or copying the latest trend, horrible games have always been a part of the scene, decades ago or today. It's just much easier to think of all the great games we've played over the years and put them all side-by-side in our minds to awe at their glory, forgetting the failures of gaming history.
2. The Flood of New Video Games is A Good Thing
Another issue today is that there are just so many video games releasing every day. A look at the Steam Store will show hundreds upon hundreds of games that are 'new' and although some are amazing, many are overwhelmingly mediocre. That's if they aren't asset flips, money-making schemes, a joke game of some kind, or just more DLC for an existing game. Annoying and often distasteful, but the reason that there are so many games filling up the Steam catalogue is because game development is now easier than ever. The rise of indie development is a double-edged sword. We now have Unity and Unreal Engine available for anyone to teach themselves to make a game but that means those who are talented can now realise their visions easier than ever before.
In today's environment of game development with anyone and everyone able to make their own video game, there's bound to be a small percentage of people who take it that one step further. Without this free indie scene, we wouldn't get one-person developer games like Banished, Stardew Valley, or Papers, Please. The more bad games being developed, the more good games are released. It's just sometimes frustrating and annoying having to wade through the muck to get to the gems.
3. Formulaic Triple-A Games Steal The Limelight
Big budget triple-A (AAA) video games are so high profile nowadays that's they are almost hard to ignore and they are backed by huge publishers with millions of dollars for advertising. With so much money invested into a game, publishers want a guarantee of their money back. This means no crazy ideas, little innovation (because we know innovation doesn't make money), and basically there's a formula to follow to make a game that will make money.
Bandit camps, 'eagle' vision, convoy missions, and sync towers. Most notably, games published by Warner Bros. and Ubisoft have the same elements and game mechanics sequel after sequel. Not in every game they release to be fair, but games like Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Farcry 5, Watch Dogs, Assassin's Creed, Mad Max, Batman: Arkham Knight, and so many more games that have the same format and formula. These games also get massive media attention, TV ads, Hollywood film tie-ins, and if you've ever searched for anything video game related online you're bound to see an ad for the game at some point as it's releasing. Now, this isn't really a bad thing and it doesn't even mean they're bad games. Lots of people buy them; lots of people enjoy them (including me), but if they're all you ever see and play it can make it seem like games as a whole are just the same thing year in year out. In reality, these games make up such a small percentage of what's out there even if you're just counting the good ones. If you're feeling like a change of pace, keep reading and I'll point you towards over a dozen great games that released just these past two years.
4. Esports & Battle Royale Games are Just the Latest Trend
In the early '90s, the biggest trend was point-and-click adventure games and there were a ton of them. In the late '90s, it was all about the strategy genre with a flood of RTS games. Then we had all the modern military shooters, then WoW-killers. In 2016 and 2017 there were so many games trying to compete with Overwatch and now it's all about the Battle Royale genre trying to get a piece of the PUBG and Fortnite pie. Whatever the trend was and no matter how many game developers decided to bandwagon onto it, there were always great games and terrible games releasing.
Could you even count the number of PUBG clones there are now? How about all the games trying to be the latest eSport? Games like Evolve were ruined by their attempt to be an eSport and even Overwatch is struggling to be one (despite how much money they've made). Fortnite, on the other hand, took the latest Battle Royale trend and built themselves a goldmine, even surpassing PUBG's success, much to PUBG's dismay. However, regardless of the success or failure of a game trying to follow a trend, a game being ruined by developers trying to bandwagon is just that, a game is ruined. It's not ALL games being ruined. God of War (2018), Cuphead, Frostpunk, and Detroit: Become Human are all great games released recently that seem completely uninterested in being eSports, so yes many games follow the latest trend but not all and if you don't like the latest trend then you've got lots of options.
Awesome Games Released in the Past 2 Years
So, you may be wondering where all the good games have gone? They haven't gone anywhere and just to prove that point, here are a list of games (in no particular order) that have been critical successes released just from 2017 onwards. If you haven't heard of some of them, check them out!
Hollow Knight, They Are Billions, Pillars of Eternity 2, Spellforce III, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Pyre, Sonic Mania, A Way Out, Cuphead, A Hat in Time, Frostpunk, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Night In The Woods, Prey, Horizon: Zero Dawn.
Not enough for you? Well many more games are releasing over the coming months. Keep your eye out for them and have fun playing something new!