Gamer Mondays: Originality vs. Comfort
This week on Gamer Mondays, I’m not going to be talking about something that is particularly making me angry. Rather, it is something that concerns me about gaming consumers. We have all become a little too complacent with keeping the status quo no matter how much we claim to want something new and different. Something needs to change.
Every medium survives on originality and creativity. In television, for example, if no one made room for the Breaking Bad’s and Sons of Anarchy’s, then we would all be watching insipid reality shows on every channel. The willingness to take a chance on something original and new is the only thing that prevents a medium from becoming stagnant and decayed.
Gaming consumers are well known for being vocal about their desire for originality. We call for developers to create original worlds for us to explore, while we deride series like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed for doing the same thing every year. This desire for originality has caused a legion of indie developers to rise to prominence in the last several years. These brave men and women are willing to put themselves on the line for the chance that the original title consumers have been craving will be their own. However, for every success story, there is an exponential amount that fail. People just don’t buy their games. Why? Because they are out of our comfort zone.
As much as we say we want Call of Duty to do something different, the truth is we kind of like what they are doing. When we go to our local store and pick up a new Call of Duty, we know exactly what we are getting. There are no surprises. We know we are getting a (usually) competent shooter with a short but passable campaign and a good multiplayer aspect. There is something comforting about that familiarity. It is the same feeling we get when we watch our favorite movies over and over, or order our “usual” from that restaurant we really like.
That is the problem with gaming consumers. We say we want originality, but we are rarely brave enough to buy something truly different. No matter what game developers say to the press, making video games is about making money. Therefore, if companies see Call of Duty selling record numbers every year, that is what they are going to emulate. What is the need in being innovative or original when you can just make your version of a popular title and roll in the cash? We as gaming consumers are guilty of not practicing what we preach. At the end of the day, we would rather have the comfort of playing the next Grand Theft Auto or Uncharted than take a chance on an unknown commodity.
Now, am I saying there is anything wrong with the comfort of playing the latest iteration of our favorite franchises? Not at all. I know I look forward to (almost) every release in the Assassin’s Creed series and I desperately want the next Tomb Raider right now. The answer is balance. We must be willing to take chances every now and again. Enjoy inFamous: Second Son in March, but also be willing to see what something like The Order:1886 is like when it releases. Maybe see if The Evil Within can reinvigorate the survival horror genre instead of longing for Capcom to fix Resident Evil.
If we never take chances, then the studios never will either. Sometimes, we need to try different things on the menu.