Where are the NEW games?

I took pause for contemplation this morning, there’s not a lot else to do on a train to Watford Junction, and my contemplation brought me thus:

Watford Junction

Where are the new games?

This might sound like an odd question given the slew of reviews we’ve been spooling out over the last month or two and the ever increasing stack of games I have waiting for my attention. But really, the majority of these are variations on a theme.

I have newer shinier driving games, RPGs with enhanced AI and interactions, the FPSs are more immersive and the rhythm games more fun and interactive. But all of this is simply additional buff and polish. I don’t complain too loudly here of course, I like improvements and extras as much as the next gadget freak, Storiesbut is there anything new out there or are we limited in our gaming as much as we are in our storytelling? You may know that there are only seven fundamental stories (The Quest, Voyage and Return, Fall and Redemption/Rebirth, Comedy, Tragedy, Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches) and all others are derivations or variations upon these.

I acknowledge that Little Big Planet has some pretty cool and innovative elements to it, but it’s basically a platformer, right?

At this point I mentally stipulate that the genres we have are set and that variation is now the key. So the new question arises… Where are the new games?

Here the discussion becomes more muddied and I find myself conflicted with… erm… me. See I have played some great games this year, Mass Effect (after the hype went away and I came to the game for the second time with fresh eyes) is really good fun, very involving and seems to drink up my evening hours. Grid is a good driving game, the car handling is nice, the tracks are fun and the concept of the instant replay is actually pretty cool even if I don’t really make that much use of it and the LEGO franchise is just nothing but fun!

But LEGO is just a platform game, Mass Effect is just an RPG (I can even point out the tanks, the mages and the rogue character classes!) and the veneer is sometimes all too thin over these fundamentals.


Need for SpeedI think about the movie industry and take that as a reference now, when was the last time you watched a movie and said “I really enjoyed that but it’s basically a fall and redemption piece” or “What a great quest tale that was”? The answer of course is not very often, unless you are the sort of film critic who appears on late night arts shows and whom no-one really likes!

Our modern movies take the fundamental story types and weave them, twist them and carve them into something almost new, and let’s be frank here they do it by copying some good literature through book licensing or by having a solid story written as the foundation for the movie.

Are our games produced this way or is the process backwards? This is rhetorical, I don’t expect an answer even from myself here but I’m going to leave it out there as food for thought.

I love games, I love movies and I love books. I suspect I’m a sucker for a good story and maybe I’m just looking a little too deeply to find one in my games.

Oh god! Maybe I’m turning into one of those critics who appear on late night arts shows and whom no-one really likes!

Anyway, I have this great idea for a new game. It’s essentially a quest tale with some fall and redemption pieces…







10 responses to “Where are the NEW games?”

  1. Skill avatar

    I hear what you’re saying about limited numbers of genres and plot arcs, but I have to say, I’ve always found the whole ‘7 stories’ thing to be a massive over-symplification.

    Basically it says that Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings is identical to every fetch quest you’ve ever done.

    It always seemed to me that were some ‘slight’ differences. 😛
    And to imply that were weren’t was simply obtuse.

    Where I do agree is that the big developers (like their movie studio cousins) keep plowing the same turf to minimise risk. And that leads to a derth of original creative thinking.

  2. John avatar

    I did over-simplify of course.. I didn’t mention the six elements of drama which are used to enhance the seven basic story types:
    * Character
    * Action (or Plot)
    * Ideas
    * Language
    * Music
    * Spectacle

    There I feel better now 😉

  3. Lorna avatar

    I think in a way storytelling is a little like chess…a limited number of pieces but after the first few moves, the permutations are manyfold.

    It is hard to see the wood of an original or new game for the heavy, space-suited marine trees. I suppose we will never get away from the core roots of game, such as ‘platform’, ‘RPG’, ‘FPS’ when it comes down to it…we just will have the hybrids and mutations of these that will fool us with their jedi mind-tricks.

    Bully for me felt original and fun, bu perhaps that was an old game in the spanky duds of a fresh premise (or was it…Skool Daze anyone) and I’m sure the first Lego game was refreshing. Nintendo perhaps have come the closest to ‘new games’ thanks to their new fangled wavy gizmo, but if it’s a choice betwen that thing and another variation on an adventure/RPG/RTS etc, then I’m shacking up with the nerdy adventurer/brash gun toting tomboy/hardcore space marine and enjoying the old groove 😀

  4. Van-Fu avatar

    I’m typing this on a beach in St Lucia,since there is nothing else to do. 🙂 But I do agree. I certainly feel as if I have done everything I can do in videogames. I’ll go back to working on my tan.

  5. Skill avatar

    LOL. Crazy person! Turn off the computer! Go be on holiday!

    Sheesh. 😀

  6. Laura avatar

    Van-Fu you will be pleased to know that it is freezing cold and raining here but we all hate you right now!!!


  7. Simes avatar

    I think if you were to immerse yourself in any entertainment medium for a significant length of time you’d be able to spot the archetypes pretty easily. Don’t forget that purely by wanting to discuss video games on a web site you put yourself into a fairly small percentage of the population. 🙂

    Also, the movie industry is, give or take, 77 years older than the video game industry. There’s time to grow yet.

  8. Emily avatar

    Developers make the same ‘kind’ of games because they know there’s a market for them, and because they’re more likely to find a publisher after making something completely generic rather than anything new or original.

  9. MrCuddleswick avatar

    I totally agree that it is a bit disappointing to look under the skin of two games that seem very different and find that they are fundamentally built the same way…e.g. Oblivion and Mass Effect.

    I don’t agree with the story classifications point and also I don’t really see the merit of having “Ideas” as a dramatic element – isn’t that like saying that walking onto the pitch is a key element of playing football?

    That’s sort of getting away from the point of what you’re saying though I think. I guess in response the only recent games that come to mind as pulling a bit of a “David Lynch” on videogame conventions would be Portal and Braid.

  10. Simes avatar

    The difference is that it’s possible to make films/games etc. without ideas. I’ve seen several of them. Oddly enough, they were arse. It’s a bit more like saying that technically you can play football without being able to score goals but you’re not going to win many games.

    I find your first point a bit weird, too. I don’t find it disappointing that two games from the same genre are from the same genre, any more than I would find it disappointing that Ghostbusters and X-Men are both movies about a group of people saving the world from bad guys. If you strip away enough differences then yes, things start to look similar, but so what? It’s the differences that are important, surely?

    I think Portal’s a classic example of great writing combining with good execution of a very simple concept. Without GLADoS it would have been a nifty puzzler, but the writing pushes it that bit higher.

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