Head In The Clouds Sunday: Reinventing The Wheel in Video Games

Head In The Clouds Sunday is my weekly post on video games that may get a little weird, a little personal, and a little fun. I talk about video games in different ways and about how we need to innovate games. It gets a little rambly, but hey, who cares? Enjoy.

We all love video games. I’ve always loved video games. I can’t remember a time when I was not playing video games. I was born in 1996 and had a Sega Genesis in my house as long as I can remember. But do we need to reinvent the wheel in video games? Are we stuck doing the same thing? Are we just running through the motions? Is it time for major changes? Is it? I’m not even sure. We have plenty of brown-colored first person shooters coming out every November. Hey, I’m not saying those games aren’t fun, they are, they really are, but isn’t this just the same thing? Don’t we need something a little different?

Trust me, I love some big, sweeping cinematic extravagances like Uncharted. The Uncharted franchise is near and dear to me, those characters are near and dear to me, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is by far one of my most cherished gaming experiences, getting the game on Christmas the year it came out, playing the entire thing within two days. I remember it crystal clear. But I get it. I get these massive cinematic experiences with great cutscenes, visuals, and fun gunplay and platforming. It isn’t like it hasn’t been done before; Naughty Dog just fine-tuned it and executed it just right. But can’t we get something a little more here?

Every once and a little while, we do. We get something like Journey. A game with no cutscenes and tells this story solely through gameplay and visuals and it’s an emotionally riveting experience. It is exactly what the video game medium was designed for. It is what video games can be like if pushed really, really far to differentiate themselves from movies and literature and become their own thing. Let’s face it: Uncharted is a movie with gameplay. Journey is a video game, a true piece of art in video games. How did that game manage to reinvent the wheel? It cut out all the same stuff that video games are known for. Stupid button prompts, bad tutorial sequences, cutscenes that force the player to stop playing the game, which is the point of video games in the first place, voice acting, everything. Just…everything. It is purely minimalistic. It is quiet and content with amazing music. It is…so purely a video game. It is taking the medium to its very core and rides along with it for around two hours and you get strangely emotionally attached to this character (or characters, depending on who you get randomly partnered up with online) that you do not know, who does not speak, who is nothing but something you control with an analog stick and buttons. It reinvents the wheel in nearly every way…by removing parts from the wheel. Isn’t that a little strange? Maybe…even really strange?

Have we gotten so used to the loud, brown shooting games or the long, melodramatic RPGs or the insane open-world games made by Rockstar, Sucker Punch, and Volition or the movie-like cinematic experiences provided by Telltale Games and Naughty Dog? Are we just…okay with this all? I don’t think we should be. Again, I enjoy these typical big budget games a lot…in fact I love them. They are still some of my favorite gaming experience of all time. I very much enjoy a solid game of Team Deathmatch in Call of Duty or hitting people with a giant, purple dildo in Saint Rows III. But we’ve become a bit too complacent as gamers. Maybe a bit too comfortable to what has been given to us year by year, especially during the holiday season where all of the biggest games are released. But let’s look at what has happened this year. A lot of people don’t love Destiny. Halo: The Master Chief Collection doesn’t really work. Call of Duty is still Call of Duty. Assassin’s Creed Unity is kind of, somewhat broken. Maybe it’s time for some changes. Maybe we really need a true, genuine reinventing of the wheel before we get a bit too comfortable with what is handed to us. I don’t want to cut out all the same “video gamey” stuff, I really don’t, I just think developers need to look back for a minute and realize we need to scale things down, go back to the basics, start from there, and then make something really, really amazing. We don’t want developers to just continue rushing into making the next great first person shooter that mostly plays the same as that other one released three months ago, I want something new and something that will challenge the gamer-not on a gameplay challenge level-but on a level of intellectual, artistic value, and really taking back what video games really mean: gameplay. And even more so, telling stories through that gameplay and nothing more. I want to see it more and I hope others do as well.

Author of this post (and the only author ever on this blog):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring writer who writes this garbage on these blogs to make you laugh or learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 3rd and 1st person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) He’s trying to be a video game journalist but is probably failing at that. You can follow him on Twitter @jjordon96 (if you want I guess). You can also purchase his first self-published book On Human Empathy for only $5.00 (you can buy literature or coffee, it’s up to you to decide. I’d go with the coffee personally).

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