Monday, June 1, 2009

I am Tired of Killing Things

I love playing video games. I like the technology, I like the imaginative environments, I like the gameplay, the challenges, the characters, and the music. I particularly enjoy the childish glee I get as I conquer some meaningless virtual hurdle, clear a level, earn a star, or whatnot. But I am getting tired of killing things.

This is not a polemic against violence in video games, per se. I enjoy fighting games as much as the next person. From the realistic (Call of Duty) to the cartoonish (Smash Brothers), from the horrifying (Resident Evil) to the hilarious (Ape Escape), from the fantastic (Star Wars) to the funny (Lego Star Wars). But at some point there have to be other modes of play.

What brought on this fit was hearing all the pre-show hype and rumor around this week's E3 exhibition. Oh, there will be plenty of non-violent news and entertainment (the usual passel of racing games and mini game collections aimed at "families") but the big bucks go to the third or fourth iteration of numerable kill-everything-and-save-the-world games. I'm talking about Nier, Assassin's Creed 2, God of War 3, Tekken 6, and Final Fantasy I've Lost Count. At some point I don't need the blood any more realistic or the hits any more spectacular. The game play is the same.

Now, I know half of the people reading this (the gamers) are going to dismiss it as the whining complaints of an ignorant old crank. The other half (non-gamers or ex-gamers) are likely to latch on to it as a global invective against fighting games. It is neither of those. It is simply an expression of frustration at the lack of innovation in game play at the highest levels.

Each fighting game has its nuance, its (hopefully) unique take on the genre. There are the stealth games, the strategy games, the collaborative games, the gruesome and the garish games. But there are ultimately only so many flavors of kill and games become boring when they are repetitive -- no matter how flashy or colorful the explosions.

But, of course, there is hope. And, no, it is not just adding motion detection or making me wear a telekinetic headset. It comes from invention. Titles like last year's Little Big Planet demonstrate that there is plenty of room left to create enthralling games without more killing. This year, Mini Ninjas, even while continuing the fighting model, seems to inject enough humor, story, and imaginative objects into the game to create a uniquely enjoyable experience.

At least from the trailers. And that's all we have to go on so far.

No comments: