Shooting People and Art - Video Games for the New Century

So a few months ago I found the solution to my relatively expensive gaming fix: game rentals. I’ve been signed up for a couple of months and get the games I want at an affordable price. And that was the main reason why I went for rentals – the price. If you’re a gamer, it’s difficult to get a broad taste of everything simply because every new release can cost you almost a hundred bucks a pop.

But what has this broad taste wielded me? Well, I’m still slurping off the remains of the 2012 Christmas releases. So far, DishonouredHitman: AbsolutionAssassin’s Creed 3 and Tomb Raider. And listen, I know this is a first-world whine and everything but…I haven’t enjoyed them nearly as much as I thought I would.

They’re fun, for a little while, but I’m thinking of calling it a day. The AAA gaming titles that are coming out all look as though they come from the same studio doing the same stuff. There’s an undercurrent of sexism within each of them (take the gun-toting nuns in Hitman: Absolution) and plenty of violence without consequence. What’s more, titles like Assassin’s Creed 3 are riding off the success of the title’s predecessors. It was, fundamentally, not a terrifically enjoyable game. It hurts my gaming heart to see them pumping out Assassin’s Creed 4 within 12 months of the previous release.

Creativity is low in AAA titles. It’s rare now to see something innovative in the console market. Maybe the release of the impending PS4 or Xbox 720 will change the field, but it’s a creative change that needs to happen, not a hardware one. Bioshock: Inifnite, which I have sadly not played, is the only AAA titles I can see that is breaking from the mould.

Meanwhile, on iOS and downloadable games, all sorts of crazy stuff is happening. The games I’ve most loved in the last twelve months have all been from smaller studios. Telltale’s The Walking Dead was masterful. I spend hours on simple, seemingly inane but bizarrely addictive games like Angry Birds: Star WarsTemple Run 2Ridiculous Fishing, or Pocket Planes. I finally got round to playing Journey as an Xbox 360 download and loved the entire experience.

AAA studios, turn to look at your lowly mobile brethren for inspiration. You can’t afford not to anymore. The video game industry is in danger of falling into the same trap film is (I blogged about that a while ago), and producing bankable pieces of fluff without innovation or risk –  a model that is ultimately unsustainable, especially when you compare price points. Mobile gaming has made gamers out of even the most beige of muggles and is currently leading the industry. If AAA studios are brave enough to follow, then we’ll be in a golden age of gaming.