With both Microsoft’s “Project:Natal” and Sony’s “untitled-ice cream-cone-looking-motion-controller-thingy” scheduled to come out this fall, I find myself wondering if this new wave of interactive entertainment is really a wave I want to ride on as a gamer.
I say this, in part, because of the seemingly endless assortment of Nintendo Wii titles that look as if they’ve just been thrown together by drop-outs and greedy business men. I mean there is a “Cold Stone Creamery” game for the Wii for crying out loud! Honestly, how disappointed would you be as a child if your parents bought you a video game that forced you to pretend to work a minimum wage job? And to make matters worse, since it’s for the Wii, you have to physically make the motion of scooping ice cream for hours at a time in order to fully “enjoy” the experience. Now, to top it all off, even if you beat the game you’re still only given a high score instead of an actual paycheck.
The point of this article is not to pick on the Wii, though, but rather to express my fear that the motion-sensing craze that has been hitting middle-America over the head for the last few years will ultimately lead to lower quality games being spread across all three major platforms. It’s my fear that people will gobble up the new and exciting technologies and then become content playing mediocre games that take advantage of them.
I am basing this partially on the Wii system, but also on the app catalog for the iPhone and iPod touch devices. When the iPhone first came out it was groundbreaking, massively hyped and most of all it was just…”new.” The iPhone had a touch screen, an accelerometer, and a speaker and microphone – all of which could be used in the third party design of applications or games. These apps could help you find a taxi cab in a strange city, let you hum a song and tell you what the song was and allow you download it, or allow you to play any number of excellent new and ported games. But, despite all the technology and innovation that went into making the device, the number one selling app for many days when it first hit shelves was a fart sound maker.
The problem with both the Wii and the iPhone is that while the companies that designed them had the best intentions for their devices, they underestimated the casual person’s desire for instant gratification; and third party companies were more than happy to step in and make a few dollars.
Now we have Microsoft and Sony about to enter the playing field where “new” and “cool” things can either become great on their own accord, or fall prey to quick money and lousy merchandise. The potential is great for both companies to make not only high definition, interactive gaming the way of the future, but also to show third party companies that it’s going to take well-written stories, thought out controls and attention to detail in order to make people buy their products. What Microsoft and Sony can do with this opportunity is make motion-sensitive video gaming a truly unique and enjoyable experience that adds depth, as well as a new level of fun to the gaming world of today.
One of the reasons I play video games in the first place is because I like to get drawn into worlds and stories that are both beautifully presented and masterfully written. I don’t care for racing games, sports games, and I really hate the idea of playing board games on a big screen TV. Instead I like to watch a tale unfold and know that I am a part of the action. I like to know that my choices affect the outcome. I like to watch game worlds bend and bow to me as I chose to kill or save, heal or burn, run or fight. I like to get so completely immersed in a game that there’s almost a sadness that comes over me when it’s all over. This can happen to me in a first person shooter like “BioShock,” or a third person RPG like “Knights of the Old Republic.” As long as the story is good, the game play is tight and the graphics don’t suck so bad they distract me from actually playing, I’m a happy consumer.
For these reasons alone I am both excited and fearful about what the next generation of interactive consoles could become. I would love to see myself actually swinging a sword, shooting a bow, holding a lightsaber, jumping off buildings, racing away from bombs, and saving the universe. I love the idea of being able to record your interactive play-through of a game and then show the highlights to family members – who think for just a second that you’ve actually been in a movie. I get giddy thinking about coming home to my place and having a conversation with my gaming system that ends up getting me food ordered, a movie rented and the lights dimmed. Those are the things I like to think about when it comes to what the future of gaming potentially holds in it’s hands.
The rest of me, though, fears the day when I finally have to sell all my systems to a used-gaming place because I just can’t stand the idea of coming home and playing “Pay the Bills!” or, “Hotel Maid For Hire” one more time. I can’t stand the thought of beating Mass Effect 3 and then knowing the only other new game on the market is, “Toilet Flush: Red Alert.” I can’t stand this vision I have of going out and spending my hard-earned money just so I can run around my apartment playing, “Run Around Your Apartment 2: Counter-Clock Wise.”
Until these new devices are actually released, the launch games are announced and demoed and I’ve had a chance to play with both system’s attachments myself, I will try and keep a small hint of optimism for motion-sensing gaming alive inside me. It’s just a small flicker of hope I have hidden away, right behind the part of me that still wants to believe politicians, and it’s the hope that lame, trashy games – which offer only instant gratification and cheap thrills – will not win out over the idea that video games can be the pinnacle of storytelling, substance and quality. Without sacrificing fun.
But, the second I see a “Pull My Invisible Finger” game for the Natal, I quit.