Why Do Modern Games Only Aspire to Mediocrity?

An Average Game.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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I can’t really say how many games I have played at this point. Most people likely would claim the same about themselves, if they have played for any amount of time. But we all (for whatever reason), have our favorites. They often cross genre lines of what we usually prefer. For reasons players can only guess, too many games have fallen (IMO) from what might otherwise be called great. They enter into that dark, shadowy area which only be described as a “Yogi-Bear” game, an average game.

And by that, I mean barely average.

And average, as you well know, is just another word for mediocre. The song, as you will recall, cited that Yogi was “smarter than the average bear.”  That isn’t saying much. It’s one thing to be as dumb as a bear. But it’s quite another to be just slightly above a mediocre bear. It’s just not something anyone aspires to, or will willingly claim, or – if they have a portfolio of mediocre art –  would be willing to whip out and proudly show.

No one goes around loudly bellowing that it is awesome to be just a few points above ‘suck’ or ‘lame’. No one except for movie or video game advertisements, that is. They can sway us with ‘sexy’ bogus demos and CGI clips, or a smooth as silk video trailer. Anyone remember Striptease? That movie had more grabs at different advertised movie genres via trailers to make a sale out of a sunken, rust laden slag heap than any other I have ever seen.

But hey – at least total crap gets some negative attention, right?

People could suppose I measure and categorize games a bit differently than some people do. I read many reviews, and like to read/hear what players say. I like to know what developers think of their work. All in all…I tend to often disagree with them, simply because they have forgotten gaming history, and the games that went before. Games that, by today’s standards, might be considered masterpieces of sheer freaking genius. That is, if they had all the same modeling, texture quality, physics and sound to represent them in the same way for “comparison’s sake” as the modern game does.

Great Old Games

road rash2

People push aside and forget many old games. They dismiss them because we have all become whores for physics, sharp graphics and surround sound. Those games often had gameplay that puts many modern games to such shame. New games look like rusted out salvage cars with some paint tossed on, and little else, IMO. I am speaking here of gameplay, concept, and implementation, and little else. Yet, not all of them were great.

Bad game ‘development habits’ got to start somewhere. Some aspects, like the modern “save point”, reminds me a bit too much of the old arcade “please shove a quarter in after dying” pattern. Modern games have expanded on old ideas as the technology has improved. Many developers scream about all the ways their money is being ‘drained away’ by development costs, time, pirates, expenses, and employees. However, they are often cranking out generic games that are often quite the opposite of their advertised claims. (Far Cry 3 comes to mind, with it’s many forced plot points, borders, and “don’t stray outside the lines or else”, because this is a freeform sandbox, after all). So offenses can be varied, and many.

But, I have seen it all before.

Modern Game Problems

There are repeated tedious map crossings, such as in Bioshock, Dead Space 3. There can be lengthy periods between autosave points. For example, Dead Space 3 will actually make some over 1/2 hour apart. It will toss you back at restart to a far back weapon bench if you fail to complete all the side missions in a chapter, if started before quitting. Or, you get a mission progress save point, with the side missions untouched upon restarting. It is beyond irritating.

There are numerous others, like artificial walls. For example, MOH: Warfighter; where the sniper cannot kill you, but do not trip over that tiny Teflon brick, or you are dead. There is forced forward push, such as when bots get confused and stop reacting if you backtrack in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2. I’ve come across inability to jump even slightly (“realism” – Ghost Recon Warfighter) or, inability to step over anything taller than a pebble. Even bushes can be more solid than concrete in some modern games.

But it is nothing new.

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Some games kill you with cheats or bad programming, like bullets coming through walls or pillars. Others, (too many to list) just have bots spawn in and you have to survive the experience. This is just like the very first pc MOH, despite the obvious departure from realism when they claim that very thing (Rainbow 6). Often, games will set up a pattern to follow. It may be: “you cannot jump or climb walls” and then later demand that very thing. This is rule set inconsistency. Some of these are carryovers from long ago.

They’re Not New

Free roam games are not all that new. The PC FPS “IGI :I’m going in” is a free roam game. You could pretty much go where you wished, assuming something was there to give a reason for the player to go. You could approach play how you wished. The original Ghost Recon had maps where you could roam far and wide. Hardly “groundbreaking.”

Some of the first Elder Scroll games had more freedom than the modern ones do and better game play. Yet they lacked graphics, surround sound and physics, and so, look faded in modern light. In days of old, the love of games created games. There was not some capitalistic drive to push something out the door and get paid, with all of the many compromises that induces.

Useless Features

Often, developers ruin games that are great fun by adding too many useless features. They suffocate the real fun that used to be there. Burnout comes to mind. And, games that had a great future were killed off despite how fun they were because they were simply mismanaged, or someone put the wrong person in change of creation (like Road Rash). People go on about Battlefield with the destructive terrain like it is something new. It isn’t a magical, modern discovery. The original Red faction had Geo Mod years ago. And it was a heck of a lot more fun than Battlefield could hope to be.

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Nearly everyone has heard of or played Call of Duty.” Every season they add some minor “new” gimmick. For example, a tiny addition rehashed from 10 years ago, like a snowmobile, now forgotten, likely stolen from an old classic like No One Lives Forever. N.O.L.F. predates so many “great” modern games and TV shows like the Venture Brothers. Developers obviously cribbed or stole ideas and plot lines. Most players today wouldn’t know that.

COD:MW remains popular, I suspect likely because none of those people have ever managed to play a game that actually was truly great. From where I stand, they appear the same as people who live in the dirt without any water to drink or shower with. But, they are happy because they simply don’t know any better. They have no knowledge of history. IMO, ignorant people are that way for a reason. They determinedly ignore anything else.

Cult of Average Games?

Cults brainwash people. They lose their grip on reality and the truth. Some return, some stay, some…well…I won’t talk about that. Suffice to say, if you choose to believe in a poor idea, the more facts that are presented to you, the more you will convince yourself the poor idea is the right choice and cling to it. Which to me, sounds a lot like the Console vs. PC argument. After spending $2,000, someone wants to really, truly believe they made the right choice “as an investment.” After all, it’s “future proof.” Well, at least until the future actually arrives in a year or two, and they need to tack on a few hundred more.

Bad gaming philosophy:


Think about it: Every day people go to casinos and justify via various methods the idea of gambling and losing. Part of this is because after shoving a certain amount of money into a “slot machine”, (example) you are invested, and cannot quit. Well, guess what? People do that with everything. Marriages, houses, cars, boats, friendships, jobs…and video games. We trick ourselves into the idea it is actually great, because we want to believe so very badly we are not an idiot, and we made a great choice – because the only other option is we screwed up and pulled a major stupid. Which means we are…a ”Yogi,” playing an average game.

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Half-Life and Other Great Games

Half-Life was a great game, not an average game, and a player didn’t need to be led around like some moronic child with half a brain cell dangling from their stem. It let you figure out quite a great amount by yourself, and it rewarded you. Add here that the path felt natural, as opposed to the many now which do not, and so require a map and a path because the layout, map and path sucks so bad it makes you feel stupid without all the help. That’s not your fault as a player – that is lousy game design. And yet, it is not as if Half-Life could lose you, it is a ‘rat maze chase down the cheese’ game, after all.

Beauty is very enticing, and men will grab at it quickly. The problem is, after that, you have to ‘live with her’ so to speak, and only then do you realize the truth about what you invented about that person (or whatever). Disappointed and disillusioned – we blame another for our mistakes and stupidity. Had we been paying attention, we would likely have seen the facts a long ways off. And by that, I mean the painful truth about the game we just purchased.

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