Sometimes, boring games sell well. That is why they are made. Corporations that produce tedious, repetitious drivel are merely fulfilling their function, which is to enrich shareholders. They measure success in sales numbers and margins. They like predictability.
But even the most undemanding, conservative consumers eventually grow tired of formulas, and so games publishers seek to innovate, to try new things in order to build blueprints for the future.
This is the constant friction-point in the business of games, the drive to churn out games that will hit quarterly targets now, and the fear that failure to try new things will severely impact the quarterly results of the future.
‘Gamer fatigue’ is a phrase used this week by Dishonored co-director Harvey Smith, to describe what happens when the marketing guys gain too much power over the creative process. This is what happens when the corporations’ need for quick returns outweigh both concerns about the future and the artistic vision of the game-maker.
But his message is a positive one. He points out that, even at the tail-end of a console generation, we are seeing artistic, interesting creations. Games like Dishonored, Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us are leading the charge against the AAA standards that fill the shelves of GameStop, while digital experimentation through XBL, PSN and Steam is a source of much that is challenging and new.
In an interview with GI Biz, Smith said, “You could attribute it to gamer fatigue. How many games have been released now where you’re a soldier, or a space marine, or you’re surrounded by elves and wizards, or you’re robbing a bank in L.A.? I’m still an optimist, and I still have a great time playing games, but…most stuff is just variations on things we’ve seen before. If you’ve been around for a while you’ve seen it over and over and over."
There have been times in the past when it seemed that the marketers were taking too much creative power. The argument went that the ‘market’ should dictate what was produced, and there are still people who believe that consumer buying patterns are the ultimate measure of artistic endeavor.
But markets are not open and free systems, and in gaming’s past this was especially the case. It wasn’t that long ago when the only realistic way to get a game into the hands of the public-at-large was through one of a limited number of powerful publishing companies. Even now, we do not live in a utopia of creative freedom, but things have definitely changed, giving more power back to the people who actually know how to make games, and want to try to expand the form.
Looking back at the bad old days, Smith says, "I remember working at companies where people would tell me that role-playing games don’t sell. I once had an executive tell me that first-person games don’t sell. It can fly in the face of reality.”
He adds, “There are many ways to be successful. You could go out and aim for a very mainstream story…and you can capture an audience that way and be very successful. On the other hand, you can be completely rock ‘n’ roll about it and say, ‘F*ck it, we’re gonna do everything different from everyone else’. We’re driven by this one impulse creatively. At a certain point, I came to mistrust formulas, because I’ve seen so many examples of people failing or succeeding by following a certain blueprint.”
Most of us are guilty of perpetuating formulas. We buy games that we know will be enjoyable, but that fail to surprise or even particularly delight us.
But what we really want is to be taken to new and unusual worlds, to be shocked and amazed at new experiences.
Source : feeds[dot]ign[dot]com