Game developers play with your heart. They inspire greed and envy. They toy with your emotions and every holiday season gamers find themselves at the mercy of dozens (or in the case of this year, tons) of new games that drain our wallets and sometimes fall flat of our expectations. In the past month alone we’ve seen Skyrim get glitchy and EA break promises, and this quarter we’ve seen a slew of sequels to long-running franchises that tout additional DLC and the recycling of renders and systems.
As gamers we are just as whiny and demanding, driven to new highs of lust and rage in defense of our favorite franchises and our need to experience every last piece of all new content. We lose control over review scores and rail at companies that are trying their hardest to produce products we will want to buy. And yet it is never enough.
But none of us, darling, are saints. And with the holidays around the corner, as you grab a peppermint mocha latte and tromp down to your local GameStop to buy gifts for the gamers on your list, consider the following before you drop those three $20 bills…
Lust : Irrational franchise worshiping.
We are all guilty of this. All gamers have that one (or two) series that can do no wrong; a bad game can never be produced from this lot. Everything is wonderful, the game is perfect, and anyone who knocks it is verbally flogged to death. If it’s a title in the X series, then it must be heinously good and all dissenters are just trolling pigheaded jerks who don’t know a good video game when they see it. Franchises like these follow formulas that fuel the addiction of gamers who are content with being served the same dish over and over again. Granted, not all franchises spiral into hell as they churn out new titles. Uncharted, for example, has some of the best sequels out there. Zelda games are a raging hit or a sorrowful miss, depending on what classic elements players are hoping to encounter.
What makes this cloud of lust so powerful is that the press, consumers, and the industry itself are prepared to take up arms and battle to the death over the expansion of certain franchises. The haters will surely continue to hate, but the lovers will kill you if you say a word. There is a reason I stay off Reddit’s gaming subreddits — I don’t want $500 worth of pizza showing up at my house because someone(s) decided that because I hate Persona I might be the most blindly ignorant human alive.
Who’s guilty? Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Mario, Legend of Zelda, Call of Duty, Halo, Elder Scrolls, Assassins’ Creed, Uncharted… The list is endless.
Gluttony: Milking a franchise for all it’s worth, including the creation of sequels, spin-off games, side story games, and movie adaptations/continuations.
I’m looking at you Final Fantasy VII. You have your own damn Compilation. And I risk my head when I say (see above: Lust) that we didn’t need Advent Children, or Dirge of Cerberus, or that ridiculous anime that came out only in Japan. The game’s popularity was mercilessly wrung dry of all possible additions… and then Before Crisis came out for cellphones. The plot of the Assassin’s Creed franchise (II, Brotherhood, Revelations) could have wrapped itself up nicely without extra crazy tower defense games, and there is still another game on the way.
Call of Duty adds new guns with every new release — but that is pretty much it. We don’t need thirty thousand Resident Evil games and the release of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 could have been avoided if all its new goodies were just packaged and sold as DLC. But since we all know how passionate gamers are about their favorite series, we can be assured that wallets will fly open once a new sequel/spin-off/movie is released. Why not stick with what people like and just reuse characters and settings — just stick a few new people in and change some outfits and we are good to go. With that in mind, you’re better off reading fanfiction or some weeabo’s Tumblr.
Who’s guilty? Final Fantasy VII, Call of Duty, Sonic the Hedgehog, Kingdom Hearts, Assassin’s Creed.
Greed: The need for DLC, Season Passes, Online Passes, and overloaded collector’s editions to enjoy the game to its fullest.
We saw it with Uncharted 3 and Resistance 3 — owners buying used are either gipped of multiplayer modes or must pay an extra $10 or so for a code to participate. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 have a slew of DLC character and costume packs; and even though Final Fantasy XIII-2 has yet to be released, retailers are tripping over themselves to offer exclusive DLC and preorder incentives, placing a soul-crushing strain on diehard fans who must collect them all. Someone out there is going to shell out for every UMvC3 costume pack and every collector’s edition from Skyward Sword to Max Payne 3. It’s a sure-fire way to receive the gift that keeps on taking.
Who’s guilty? Gears of War, Call of Duty, see above.
Sloth: Re-releasing an older game for a new system without any useful updates, essentially ignoring progress. This also applies to reusing assets and engines from previous games to make a sequel longer without adding anything to the experience.
This year has seen a veritable torrent of games given an HD remake or have a remake announced. It’s true that PlayStation 2 games look like poop on the PlayStation 3, but paying for the game again just so the edges aren’t blurry is an unnecessary luxury. We also saw countless game compilations announced, marketed as must-have collections. All three Jak and Daxter games on one disk, ooh, aah! A repackaging of the Metal Gear series into a disk sleeve that can hold all my disks at once? AND the edges aren’t blurry! Daily quests in World of Warcraft? Don’t even get me started. Ocarina of Time was released in pretty 3D, yes, but even though it’s the same game with the same pointy-breasted Great Fairies you will buy it anyway because it’s Ocarina of Time for frak’s sake.
And then there’s the abomination of reusing assets and essentially playing the same game over again with a different plot. Final Fantasy X-2, anyone? The only new maps were a handful of dungeons that were just branches off the maps of its prequel. In the same vein as the HD remake is the re-release of an older game onto a newer system as is. Persona 2: Innocent Sin was recently released for the PSP, and the graphics and system are so outdated it would be a sin to pay the $40 MSRP for it. I understand the nostalgia value, but please: don’t “upgrade” an older game, slap fancy packaging on it, and then expect us to pay top dollar. You’re killin’ us.
Who’s guilty? God of War, Ico/Shadow of the Colossus, Devil May Cry, Jak and Daxter, Metal Gear, Final Fantasy X/X-2, Persona 2, Valkyrie Profile, Final Fantasy IV…
Wrath: Making a game “harder” without creating any real difficulty, eliminating the player’s need to train and strengthen in-game in order to complete achievements. For example, the inclusion of enemies with unnecessarily huge health pools with insane immunity, leading to boss fights that are time consuming without requiring any strategy.
You’ve been there. Don’t lie. Remember how Final Fantasy VIII scaled the final battle with Ultimecia based on your party’s levels? You could go the whole game having Selphie whack things with her nunchucks and still kick the crap out of the bosses like you were Hercules. Still, they’re making the A.I. smarter, and whether or not you’ve got Elena running alongside you, the snipers only have eyes for Drake. Checkpoints are made unbearable as all weapons are trained on you. In Assassin’s Creed: Revelations it didn’t matter how many of your assassin bros were helping you fight, every guard wanted your head and yours alone.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: on a scale of one to Dragon Quest VIII no one wants to work super hard to gain levels. RPGs that require you to level grind for hours are now a source of frustration. Crawling turn-based battle systems like the one in Final Fantasy X make farming a chore. We want to be able to buy skills or fly through random encounters at breakneck speed. We want to be able to set our party up and let them go, and not have to spend countless hours and several bags of Doritos just to be able to trounce an enemy and advance the story. Did I mention that you’re grinding for two days because your enemy has a heinously large health pool? There’s no strategy to beating him, no special weaknesses, no active time events to complete or tactics to employ; he requires an old-fashioned beating. And with 100,000,004 HP, it’s going to take you at least three days. Better make sure no one unplugs your system.
Who’s guilty? Everyone.
Envy: Applying other franchises’ elements and trends (not always good ones) to games merely because they are popular.
I think my point can be summed up rather dramatically by pointing out that Ezio’s costume from Assassin’s Creed is a DLC costume for Noel in Final Fantasy XIII-2. That happened.
If you haven’t noticed it already, let me tell you about the First Person Shooter formula. Developers follow a structure to guide players through a game: go here, shoot dudes until the scripting stops, go to the next area, rinse, repeat. Obviously this sells well, but what we’ve been getting is FPS experiences of mixed quality that rely entirely on these scripted events, leaving little room to run around and frag as you please. It’s like they think we’re lemmings or something. I love getting the same experience with different names slapped on it! Wait… No I don’t.
And who remembers that time Final Fantasy tried to make an FPS? And now every series is jumping on the sequel/prequel/spin-off train, bringing dopplegangers and time travel and Super Smash Bros.-type mechanics into it until it’s all one big mush of concepts that no one can claim as theirs anymore.
Who’s guilty? Call of Duty, Killzone, Resistance, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Pokemon, Assassin’s Creed, Mario… No one can claim originality anymore.
Pride: Anything less than a 9/10 constitutes a “bad score.”
Gears of War 3 getting an 8. Uncharted 3 getting an 8.5. Batman: Arkham City getting an 8.5. Skyward Sword getting a 7.5. Game reviews are meant to give consumers honest opinions about a game so you can decide whether or not to shell out the money for it. If all you want to hear is what you want to hear, then don’t read reviews and just buy the game. Reviews are not personal affronts. We are commenting on inanimate objects without feeling, for crying out loud. A game can be fun but not well executed and there is no reason to act like a tit when someone else did not enjoy a game you did.
Who’s guilty? You.