worth a look.
‘Core Gaming’ is dead
Accessibility. A word that usually has positive connotations in life has recently become a noun that strikes fear at the hearts of those discerning gamers who have had no choice but to find themselves relegated to the sidelines, observing their favourite genres and even franchises become diluted in order to cater for the mass market. Is this accessibility really a curse or a blessing and if it is the former, who is to blame for this new trend? Console gamers? Developers? We find out and look to see who the real culprits are behind this trend.
Video games, from the very beginning, have always been challenging. Take Pac-Man for example; a gaming classic that is almost 12 years old. The premise of the game is simple; you control a spherical drug addict suffering from jaundice and have to collect pills in a maze before ghosts devour you. Yet its simplicity and accessibility do not allude to the difficulty of the game. The same can be said for the vast majority of older classics such as Mario or Megaman. Recently I played Streets of Rage under the erroneous assumption that, now after more than a decade’s worth of gaming, a simple 2D platformer I struggled with as a child would be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong. I may have acquired over 140 tactical nukes on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 or gone on a few rampages on Halo, but that in no way prepared me for the battering I received at the hands of the pixels compiled to barely recognisable human beings. No infinite continues or checkpoints? No saves? It was official; modern day gaming had bludgeoned my senses to mush and made me a soft marshmallow glutton for punishment.
The release of Battlefield 3, for the most part, was met with praise and glowing reviews (as far as the multiplayer is concerned anyway) and for good reason- it is an excellent FPS. However, if you go deeper beyond the sea of casual gamers, many of whom have never even played Battlefield 2, you will notice a sizeable group of gamers who look upon Battlefield 3 in resentment at what it has become, in their opinion; a dumbed-down version of its predecessor, dolled up for the next-generation. To better understand this ill-feeling, one should observe DICE’s response to a question posed by an interviewer who asked about the lack of Commander Mode in Battlefield 3 (a key feature in Battlefield 2):
DICE: “We could implement it, but the question is ‘How do you get the threshold lower?’ That’s not by making it more complicated. Our challenge is to make sure that anyone that just jumps into the game will get it.”
Commander mode was a very important feature in Battlefield 2 in that it allowed someone to coordinate the myriad of different squads to the appropriate objectives. Have you played Battlefield 3 recently? You will come across some of the most downright clueless players online who clearly don’t even know that an objective exists in the game let alone help carry it out. This in turn, has a knock-on affect on the squads these so-called players form and thus ultimately undermines any hope of effective teamwork, something that is an essential part of the Battlefield experience. But one gets the feeling that it is precisely these kind of players that are catered for when you ‘lower the complexity threshold’. And it’s not just Battlefield 3 that is guilty of this. Cliffy B was bandying around the term ‘accessibility’ before the release of Gears of War 3. However, one particular franchise will inevitably come to mind when discussing this and that is much loved and loathed, Call of Duty.
The original Call of Duty Modern Warfare is the definition of a ‘killer app’. It is, however, the sequel that elaborated upon the original Modern Warfare’s formula that really shot to fame. The game’s mechanics proved to be so successful that a myriad of different games have tried to copy its formula such as Medal of Honour, Crysis 2, Killzone 3, Halo 4 (to name but a few) and its influence has spread to titles that aren’t even FPS’ such as Uncharted 3. The latter games are all ‘heavy-weight’ titles and thus, it’s not just a case of smaller devs trying to leech off of Call of Duty’s success. So what does Call of Duty do so well that it has an army of imitators behind it? One word comes to mind and yes you guessed it….accessibility.
Setting a bad example on the industry?
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and all subsequent Call of Duty games do one thing, and they do it very well; they constantly hold your hand and simultaneously make you feel like a hero. Call of Duty’s tremendous popularity and success is a cause for concern for more discerning gamers and rightfully so- its influence is seeping into our beloved franchises and not for the best. Traditional gamers that have helped the industry become what it is today now find themselves in a sub-group called ‘core gamers’ and feel increasingly neglected (see Microsoft and the Xbox One and contrast this to its earlier focus on ‘core gamers’). The quality of our games are suffering as a result much like how the majority of Hollywood movies are.
THE GOOD OL’ DAYS!
Will we ever see the return of shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake?
Thus, it’s with teary eyed nostalgia that I reminisce about a time where games were actually challenging and developers strived to find ways to make them even more so. An honourable mention should go to true competitive FPS’ such as the Quake series and Unreal Tournament. Quake 3 was revolutionary at the time it was released because of its sole focus on multiplayer- with its blisteringly fast gameplay, brilliant map design and unrelenting weapons. There was no hand-holding with Quake 3: if you were rubbish at the game then you knew it instantly and not because the game rewarded you for your failures. Casual gamers? They can take a railgun slug to the face for all I care.
These days, FPS’ usually involve the use of a generic gun to instantly kill someone- its just simply a case of who spots who first. This is a far cry from the days of say, Unreal Tournament 2004 where weapon designs were not only skill-based but also extremely creative. Do you remember the Shock Rifle? It had two firing modes- one releasing a plasma slug and the other a plasma ball. However, if you were skilled enough, you could fire the plasma ball and then shoot the plasma slug at it to create a greater explosion that was devastating to the enemy. Its simple premise belies its difficulty however; executing this move successfully in the heat of battle wasn’t easy but it was extremely rewarding.
CONSOLE GAMING = MORE NOOBS?
Are developers really at fault for this trend of ‘dumbing’ games down or are gamers responsible for this shift in focus, afterall, look at the tremendous popularity of the Call of Duty franchise that shows no signs of stagnating year after year. The fact of the matter is, the gaming audience has changed; it is no longer the pursuit of those dedicated few who actually understand things such as bump-mapping, dedicated servers anti-aliasing etc.
These days, almost everyone has a games console and a vast majority of them play online. The Nintendo Wii hyper-accelerated the introduction of non-gamers to gaming and generally, there are far more gamers now than ever before. With the ever-increasing costs of developing games, can we really blame developers for not wanting to overwhelm the gaming masses with things that aren’t understandable at a cursory glance and require some patience and learning?
Are consoles to blame for the lack of true core games?
Many PC gamers blame this trend of ‘casualising’ gaming on consoles and console gamers. There is no denying that the majority PC gamers are a more dedicated bunch in that they spend a considerable amount of money on building their PCs just for gaming. The PC platform and the flexibility it affords will always make it the platform of choice for many gamers. FPS’ such as Quake 3, Unreal Tournament or Counter Strike are only really playable on PCs unless you make allowances such as bigger hit-boxes or auto aim assist for consoles due to the lack of precision that controllers afford. Furthermore, RTS’ such as Command and Conquer, Starcraft, Warhammer etc are only really playable on PCs due to the breadth of input options afforded by virtue of a mouse and keyboard. Take all this into account plus the fact that PCs can be upgraded and you can understand why the PC’s do not limit developers as much as consoles do.
However, consoles cannot be blamed solely for this trend because, afterall, it was on consoles that the likes of Sonic and Mario were born. Consoles have helped the gaming medium take over others such as movies and books and helped spearhead gaming to where it is today.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Thankfully, some games still cater for the hardcore
Thankfully, it is not all gloom and doom as there are developers today that, rather admirably, refuse to get suckered into this trend of catering solely for ADHD sufferers and games such as Demon Souls and Ninja Gaiden are held in high esteem for that very reason. It’s hard to imagine a game like Quake 3 being successful today unless it is loaded with gimmick after gimmick to appease the scourge of so-called new generation of gamers.
Let’s just hope that developers aren’t swayed too much by the lure of profit to completely relinquish their ties with the people that made the gaming industry the force it is today.
lastly apologies for direct copying & pasting.