Make (AAA) Video Games Great Again

Being a business-minded person (ironically majoring in English), it hurts to me to see the state of AAA titles, or titles that have major (designer) studios and massive budgets behind them. I’m not going to try to make this a nostalgic, grass is greener type of post, but there has been an undeniable decay in quality titles. I attribute this to a variety of factors, the foremost being the push of financial interests overwhelming any sense of artistry for designers and storytellers. Many famous studios since the seventh generation of consoles (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) have become “sell-outs” pumping out sequel, after sequel each year, releasing incomplete, glitchy games and selling them for $60 a pop. Why, you might ask, do they have the audacity to release half-baked titles? Because the seventh generation of consoles introduced the ability to PATCH games. Patching means they essentially offer online updates that you download straight to your console. In its best use, it fixes gamebreaking bugs that play testers missed, at worst it allows developers to meet their deadlines on products and just update it later.

From a studio standpoint, tension has grown between “hey, we’ve got this $100 million dollar game brand that’s super valuable, lets leverage that and sell it again, slightly different, for the full price!” and “hey, lets create something new and original, and see where it goes!” The operative term for this phenomena is risk.

Risk has always been an important facet of success in game development, people conceptualize all kinds of unique, wacky ideas, and generally if their team was behind them, they would get to work. Now, most big conglomerate video game companies have acquired these studios and have essentially told them to take far less risk, and to design titles that encourage the customers to spend even more cash on downloadable content. My favorite example of taking a unique idea and injecting old fashioned corporate greed is Evolve. Evolve took a unique concept, one player plays as a massive powerful monster trying to evolve (lol) and destroy the planet or kill the hunters. 4 other players pick hunters, categorized by roles, in order to combat the titanic beasts. Sounds interesting right? Check out this cool screenshot:Image result for evolve

It’s a AAA title that had a lot of unique promise to it. But then, on day 1 (yes, ONE, UNO, EINS) of its release, it launched with approximately $136 in buyable, downloadable content for players in the form of new characters and monsters…

Developers all started out in the same place, getting into game development either out of the interest in the challenge, or true love of creating stories and entertaining the masses. As soon as the sixth generation of consoles, that is, the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube era, each platform had incredible AAA products come out, these games were complete because they had to be, you couldn’t issue software updates to any game-breaking glitches. Releases had multi-year gaps between them, meaningful space to respect their current offerings, and to properly develop their newest titles. Now, we have this:COD.jpg

COD Youtube.png

You really gotta ask yourself: what’s going on?


To Go Hard, or Not to Go Hard.


“Hey man, what’re you doing?”


“cnt talk gaming”

This is a typical conversation when I’m gaming.


“Hey man, what’re you doing?”


“Haha just playing some COD.  Gotta love the ballistic knives!”

This is a typical conversation when I’m playing.

The two are vastly different, and for me, there’s no comparison. The best way to relay this to you, however, is to paint a picture.


                The coffee table has been pushed back.  The big leather chair from the corner has been positioned in the perfect position, about 10 feet back from the big screen.  The lights are turned off, the blackout shades are down.  My parents know not to talk to me, and the sound is turned up to glass-shaking levels.  I stretch out my neck, flex my fingers, and pop my Bluetooth mic into my ear.  The gentle orchestral hum of strings sounds out as I fire up the PS3, and I instantly load up Call of Duty: Black Ops.  I impatiently mash the buttons, skipping the intro cinematic.  I jump immediately into the online lobby.  After a thorough check of my settings, I head over to the load-out page.  My best class is still there, Famas with Arctic camo, Red Dot sight, and all the perks are in place.  I choose Hardcore Team Deathmatch and spend the next few hours barking instructions to my teammates, resisting the urge to throw my controller, and coming out on top of the leaderboards.


                I’m lounging on the couch, the sun is shining, the backdoor is open, and there is some nice, relaxing music on the stereo.  I turn on the PS3 and flip through my game collection.  “COD could be fun,” I think, and the disk is soon spinning away in the drive.  I have a nice conversation with my mom as the game loads, and eventually turn back to the TV and hop into online.  I load up my favorite class: sniper rifle with bright orange “camo,” ballistic knives as the secondary.  I set the game mode on random and pop in my mic.  “What’s up guys? Good luck.”  The game begins and I start running around the map, only using my knife.  I’m laughing, talking to my teammates, and my blood pressure is nice and low.  After a few games of screwing around, I’ll back out and join a new game mode.  I don’t get the best scores, but it’s so much fun.

                Sometimes you want to just have a chill time, just forget about your problems, and that’s great.  Sometimes, you want to kick some butt.  And that’s perfectly fine too.  I love to game, but I love to play just as much.  Remember, it’s just a game.  …Most of the time.

-Deathly Hallowed

Gaming or Playing?

How many people do you know that consider themselves to be hardcore gamers?  Maybe 5? 10? Any more than that and you’re in a pretty big gaming club, or you’re just a very social MMORPG player. But now consider how many people you know that play video games, even if only a few times a year. That’s a lot more people, isn’t it?

So what is really the difference between the hardcore gamer and the once-a-month player? I will argue that, other than the obvious inequalities in the amount of time spent and likely the skill level (and the severity of Vitamin D deficiency), there is not much difference at all.

When someone turns on a video game, they might play “just for fun” or to “kill some time” or whatever else they can come up with. But once they start playing, they want to win: to get to the next level, to beat the current high score, or to improve their online rankings or develop a new, more effective strategy. In essence, no one continues to play a game only “to play.” They want to win, whether they play once a month or 7 hours a day.

To me, this is the difference between gaming and playing: working toward a goal. As long as someone picks up a controller or stares down a computer screen with the intent of beating some challenge or goal, they are gaming. They are trying to win, to be successful. If they were merely playing, this attempt to beat something would not be present. It would be like playing Call of Duty and not keeping the score in an online match. Players would simply repeat the same tasks over and over again with no goal or challenge in mind, like children playing with sparklers on the 4th of July. There is no goal to watching something give off sparks, but it is entertaining nonetheless.

To sum it all up, gamers play to win and players play to be entertained. So the next time you’re crushing your buddy in HALO, and he says something to the tune of “I’m just playing, don’t be so serious” or whatever lame excuse he comes up with, remind him that if he wasn’t trying to beat you, he wouldn’t care that he was being beat.

Game on, gamers.

OK, so maybe I shouldn’t play for 8 hours straight

Ever since I was a little kid my parents have taught me that if you want something you have to work hard for it and just buy it yourself.  Consequently, I found myself saving my money at all times just waiting for something to come along that I truly wanted.  When I was about 7, my older brother and I decided that we could no longer live without an N64.  Can you blame us?  Lets be honest, it’s still to this day the greatest gaming console ever produced.  This point marked the beginning of what would become years and years of disapproval from my parents, who do not and never will recognize where the fun lies in playing a video game.

Let me point out that I really do not spend a lot of time playing videos games.  My friends attitude towards gaming is fairly similar as well.  We’ll play a few games of FIFA or Call of Duty from time to time, but never find ourselves in front of the screen for hours on end.  In addition, I’ve never been much of an online PC gamer for the sole reason that it terrifies me.  I am positive that if I sat down and played World of Warcraft for an hour, I would become so addicted that by the time I realized what I was doing I would have thrown away about a month of my life playing the game.

The worst part about sitting down to play a video game for me is that every time one of my parents walks by they give me the slightest glance of disapproval.  I know they’re not trying to be condescending, but it’s clear to me that they would rather see me doing a whole host of other things that don’t involve sitting in front of a TV.

Things could be a lot worse.  I could be holed up in my room for hours on end, severing contact with the outside world because I’m so engrossed in a video game.  Sometimes it’s tempting to try and beat the entire Assassin’s Creed game as soon as it comes out, no matter how long it would take.  Then I remember that the game will always be there for me to complete later.  Perhaps my parents’s attitude about gaming is rubbing off on me slightly.  Don’t get me wrong, I think they are incredibly fun to play, but I also realize that there are often more important things that I could be spending my time doing.  I’m not sure why my parents can’t see the entertainment value in video games, but honestly I don’t really care.  In the end, it’s not other’s attitudes towards gaming that you have to worry about…just yours.  But remember, please be moderate.