Video Games Are Getting Boring
That or I’m getting old. Either way, this sucks.
It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago when E3 was one of the most important events of the year. Elections and regularly scheduled once-in-a-lifetime tragedies aside, the Electronic Entertainment Expo used to be the biggest event in the world, with video game and technology announcements that had the potential to change not only the gaming industry, but society as a whole. Now, though, as I’m reading through the TL;DRs of the Xbox-Bethesda showcase and Summer Game Fest 2022 thanks to Ant Barlow (which you can also do right here), I can’t help but feel that the industry as a whole has taken a turn for the worse in recent years. And that fucking sucks.
To be clear, the decline of E3 isn’t that big of a problem. In-person trade shows for a medium that’s focused on digital content was always a weird choice that, even in its heyday, resulted in an absurd amount of sexism and dystopian-esque capitalism. The Twitch streams of press conferences that are being shared right now aren’t that much better, and as a whole, nothing of value was lost when the details of the latest Call of Duty were shared to the series’ blog instead of being showcased in an over-produced press conference filled with poorly-dressed journalists.
The problem, and I probably should’ve clarified this before the third paragraph in this article, is that as a whole, the content the gaming industry is producing is a lot more mediocre than it used to be. A quick look through Metacritic’s “best video games of all time” list shows this best: assuming you believe what video games journalists have to say about things, which is a topic for another time, a grand total of 13 of the 100 best-reviewed titles in the history of the medium released between 2017 and 2022, and three of those entries are the various editions of Elden Ring.
The rest are a random assortment of Nintendo games, titles that released in the early 2000s, and the odd game of the year winner like Disco Elysium. While analysing the correlation and causations of video game review scores is something that someone far smarter than I can do, one thing is clear: there just aren’t as many good titles coming out these days. And the rest…well, they’re kind of boring.
Horizon Forbidden West is a great example of this. In our review one of our publishers, Rob Kershaw, said that while the game was great, it often struggles to justify its own existence in a sea of similar games. Compared to the praise that we gave its predecessor, Horizon Zero Dawn, it’s easy to see that in just a few years, games that were once innovative have turned into copies of themselves. Our quasi-regular reviews of Call of Duty and Far Cry show the same thing, with once-loved franchises going bland as they fail to innovate or change in any significant way.
And it’s not just previously-released games that have this problem. Going back to the E3 rant, the thing that made the trade show so great weren’t the weird marketing campaigns or anime girls; it was the games that were showcased there. Skyrim, Call of Duty 4 and The Last of Us all made prominent appearances at the conference, and those games ultimately changed the medium (and by extension society, more or less) in a positive way. Sure, there were clones of the titles that proved to be pointless, and the effect of Call of Duty on the world may not have been the greatest, but they became cultural cornerstones that everyone and their cat knows about today.
The same likely won’t be said about Starfield, Call of Duty Modern Warfare II or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge, though. While I’m sure that all those titles will prove to be perfectly adequate and receive 8/10s (hey - Turtles got 9, thank-you very much - Ed.) from whichever person at Jump Dash Roll gets to review them (by the way, I call dibs on talking about CoD this year), I’m less optimistic that my dad will play them with me in a few years. The same can be said for the countless number of other games that we’ve ranted about here at Jump Dash Roll and already forgotten about. I mean, how many people even know Sniper Elite 5 released recently?
While there are still games that are changing the medium for the better —if you haven’t played Norco, you really should—, these titles are few and far between. Call of Duty has become a parody of itself, Bethesda’s lineup has been entirely forgettable since Skyrim, and hell there aren’t even that many good VR games. And all this sucks, because it means what was once a medium that redefined how people think about entertainment has become anything but that. There are no more interesting articles about how Call of Duty showcases the ever-changing realities of conflict, why video games are so focused on violence, or even what we can learn from user scores on Metacritic.
And for an industry that once produced self-reflecting gems like The Stanley Parable, Red Dead Redemption 2 and This War of Mine regularly, this isn’t a good thing. Maybe I’m just getting old and don’t understand vidya anymore, or maybe I keep missing games that actually do change the medium for the better, but seeing as it’s my job to not do both of those things, I doubt it. Going forward, it’s also possible that the industry will recover and start producing titles that make a difference in the world, but if that happens, I’ll eat my gaming headset.
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