A few days ago, Edward Smith wrote a piece for the International Business Times where he makes the suggestion that the attitude of players towards games like Her Story and Sunset are killing the video game industry. His argument stems, unsurprisingly, from the recent bankruptcy of Tales of Tales, the studio responsible for Sunset, and his perception of the general reception of Her Story, an FMV-driven narrative with minimalistic player input in the tradition of Night Trap. Edward explains how he longs for video games to grow up and become an artistic medium, and that player’s receptions to art games are preventing the medium to grow up. This is by no means the first article of its kind. Indeed several commentators have decried how the medium has yet to grow up and how players are preventing the medium from reaching maturity. I disagree with their premise.
I don’t know that I would call the latest E3 as the best E3 in ages, I have to concede that it was a remarkably solid press conference. From the first major conference featuring Bethesda in their first ever E3 players were shown upcoming games to be excited about. Bethesda had a good showing including games like Doom and an Elder Scrolls Online expansion, but the showstopper for Bethesda was Fallout 4.
Fallout 4 seems to begin in the pre-war era and expand on the already expansive lore of the Fallout universe. Mechanically it seems like it will follow the template set by Fallout III and expanded on in Fallout: New Vegas. However, Fallout 4 will feature the ability of taking over wasteland space and building a settlement. Players will then have to build defenses to protect their settlement from raiders. More Fallout is always welcome, but Fallout with added play content is amazing.
It seems like ludic academics are not entirely amicable to scholarly inquiry into a single text. Browsing through the most recent volumes of Eludamos, Game Studies, Loading (SFU), and Games and Culture, only a handful of articles will focus on sustained analysis about an individual title, and those that do use individual titles often do so as a case study to prove the merit of a theoretical framework posited in the same article rather than as catalyst for sustained analysis of the text itself.
While I understand the reasoning behind this – discussing concepts is, after all, a far more edifying and – honestly – fun endeavor than sustained inquiry into an individual text, I find the relative lack of single text analysis to be disheartening. At times, sustained scholarly inquiry into a single text can shed light not only on the meaning of the text, but about the role of the text and of media as a whole in society and might help reshape the way in which we talk about genres as a whole.
Why do I make this assertion?
Yesterday I made the argument that it seems like 2D fighting games have reached full maturity and, as such, will not be able to evolve, gameplay-wise, beyond that which is currently available. The only changes left to be made, then, are small tweaks to how combos are performed and, of course, visual upgrades. But is the same not true of other genres? The answer is: it depends.
Consider first person games.
Maze War (1974) is often considered the original first person game. It let the player roam a maze from the first person perspective. Experimentation with the first person camera continued until on 1992 Wolfenstein 3D was released, thus establishing many of the genre characteristics now accepted as part of what makes First Person Shooters. Between Wolfenstein 3D and the current crop of FPS games best exemplified by the Call of Duty and Battlefield series, there was some experimentation with the first person shooter. Whether these were play on gravity settings in outer space, the use of short range weapons, vehicles, tactical first person combat, or different match settings, it is unquestionable that modern FPS games are radically different from early first person games.