Turning Back The Clock

I can remember back when I first really got into games, things were much simpler all around. Games didn’t have to have Oscar worthy casts, or scripts, or stories.  A game just had to be playable, look some what decent, but more importantly, it had to be FUN.

With the recent release of BulletStorm, it got me thinking; why can’t games just be fun anymore. The “story” (if you want to call it that) in BulletStorm is the thinnest of threads sewing all the locales and characters together. It doesn’t need a big overblown story. There doesn’t have to be some amnesiac main character trying to save his world, or find his father who turns out to be an evil master-mind, or any one of the hundreds of overdone story arcs. BulletStorm is ridiculous, it’s way over the top, and it’s just fun to play, and honestly, what else do we need.

Now, I’m not saying that epic story lines in games aren’t needed at all, far from it. Games like Grand Theft Auto IV, Mass Effect 2, and Assassin’s Creed 2 would all have been a bit strange and somewhat of a let down without their wonderfully crafted story. There is a place for epics as well, however think about how much more ridiculous games like BulletStorm and Duke Nukem Forever would be with a serious story.

Duke Nukem Forever will be out in May (possibly) and it is yet another throwback to a time when games were all about having fun. Duke does two things (I think we all know what they are by now) and doesn’t need an excuse to do either. Stuff is messed up, and he is going to take care of it. Maybe not even fix it, just kill a lot of dudes in order to achieve what ever goal he has. I think people need to look at certain video games like you would a big budget action movie or horror movie. Basically the entire cast and crew know going into it that they aren’t going to win best picture or best screenplay. Do they just shut it down and walk away? Hell no. Do you think that movies like “The Expendables” would have been made if Sly was just looking to pick up an Oscar nod? There’s a reason why movies, for the most part, come out in the summer. They are just there for people to kick back, relax, turn your brain off and just have fun with them. Sometimes games should take on the exact same feeling.

I just don’t see why games HAVE to have some complicated plot with twists and turns to be judged as being a “good game”. I have been playing through BulletStorm and am really enjoying the insanity of it all. At it’s base level it’s a story of revenge and redemption, but no one cares about that as they are kicking a dudes head off after you just shot him in the nuts. Enemies scream (a lot), blood sprays, and points are collected, that’s all you really need to know.

All I am trying to say is that maybe gamers don’t need to over analyse things. Think about games from back in the day on the Atari. Most of them didn’t have text, let alone a narrative. Gamers back then didn’t ask why Pac-Man had to eat all those pellets, or why the ghosts were chasing him, they just did. Pitfall Harry was out for cash (points), and staying away from black wholes and alligators. He wasn’t after some ancient dagger that might grant him eternal life, or what ever. Even games that lead the way to mainstream status like Super Mario Brothers were just about a guy trying to save a girl. Personally, I just don’t think things always have to be overly complicated in order to be good. Sometimes it’s just a game about points, or revenge, or saving really hot chicks from intergalactic kidnappers.

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  • Red

    I find myself asking the same questions quite a bit, not just regarding games as pure fun, but everything else being wholesale ignored by publishers.

    One thing I disagree with you on is the movie analogy. I don’t hardly believe that movies and games can’t be compared to each other like so many tend to think, but the summer movie specifically works mostly the same as the entire game industry these days. Marketing, its where the buck always stops. Summer movies tend to be the huge blockbusters because it is the time for release most likely to recoup the cash spent making it. More people are willing to leave the house for entertainment in the summer, not to mention summer vacation kids looking for something to do. Its the same reason publishers have a hard on for fall, less people are willing to leave the house and more likely to look for home entertainment alternatives, not to mention the holiday spending frenzy. The bigger the budget, the harder the focus on maximizing potential profit.

    All that is splitting hairs mostly, but it speaks to gaming’s nature in regards to how it compares to the movie industry. The movie industry spends the rest of the year working on more “prestigious” projects, whereas gaming seems to slow to a halt. The movie industry knows that to be successful, you need to appeal to as many markets as you can, for as long as you can. Gaming, however, seems to love one specific market above all, and has nearly abandoned any large scale projects that aren’t viable in that market.

    The reason why games can’t be fun anymore is the same reason why games can’t be emotionally driven art, too challenging, or anything else mainstream gaming isn’t these days. Publishers have put all their eggs in the most profitable basket, and everything else is just not a priority. Its debatable as to why big publishing can’t seem to pull a profit on anything without lowest common denominator appeal, but the fact is that publishers drove the market to a point where the big budget action games have driven the cost of development up for everyone else, and the more focus these games get as a result of being the only big money makers, the further down that spiral we go.

    But hey, Nintendo hasn’t done too bad recently. Say what you will about their own marketing strategies, but man that new Donkey Kong Country game was some of the purest gaming fun I’ve had this console generation. The fun games will always be there, but until consumers give publishers a reason to shovel over some of those Call of Duty resources towards those kinds of games, the publishers couldn’t care less as long as they rake that money in.