Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of games that are innovative being made every year but they’re pretty much mostly from indie developers and very few are from AAA developers. Its sad that these big developers only want to make mostly sequels that keeps recycling the mechanics and every other element of a game like take for instance Call of Duty. Even if they’re not sequels, a lot of games are just carbon copies of other games with nothing setting it apart from the original.
I remember playing the first Call of Duty many aeons ago and it was a breathtaking experience. The gameplay was good but it was the narrative and cinematic experience that was in a class of its own. It was innovative back then but when you keep taking and recycling that formula, it becomes tiring. Sure, many people love to play it now for the same reasons I did back then; but the franchise has become a cash cow for the developers and publisher. Every year you will see basically the same game being released onto store shelves just under a different name.
Part of the blame have to be placed on us, the gamers; the same people that keep taking out our wallets and giving away our hard earned money to buy the same game that we just bought a few months back. We don’t demand innovation, we keep wanting the same experience over and over again and that is where developers and publishers take advantage of us. They keep making these games not because they lack innovative or creative people but its because they know they will sell a ton of them, the demand is there and its higher than its ever been. Its simple economics, when we increase the demand of innovative and creative games, than the supply will follow suit.
I liken the COD franchise to the sports genre, every year we get a new version of it with the only difference mostly is an updated roster. One thing though, even the sports genre have more innovation than COD, developers will tweak with the mechanics and such that even from one year to the next, gamers will feel a huge difference between them. Spy Party creator Chris Hecker said it best during his ranting session at the San Francisco Game Developers Conference recently, holding up a review of Call of Duty: Black Ops which listed the good and bad of the game, it only said “short campaign” as the bad in which he responded with, “The bad wasn’t that you bought the same fucking game six months previously?”
Another quote of his which I feel, sums this whole issue up – developers are just “strip-mining the exact same plot of land deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into the earth.” I will admit that I too love sequels, one of my favourite gaming experience of all time is the Ratchet and Clank series where its pretty much the same from game to game so I’m just as guilty as anyone. Innovation is not about increasing the graphical prowess of a game, but continuing to challenge the gamers to solve problems in different ways or even try to get an emotional response from them. Heavy Rain is a great example of the latter. Great games like Okami and Shadow of the Colossus is what the industry is missing and should strive to make more of. Upcoming games like Fez and Quantum Conundrum are also worth a look just on the innovation part alone.
Remember that this problem doesn’t only exist in sequels, games that copy others and not necessarily borrowing elements and making it into something innovative are also at fault. Sequels are not entirely bad, if the developer wants to tell a story that is just too big to fit into one game – Mass Effect for instance – then its fitting to do so in a few episodes.
There is a very simple solution to all this, gamers must want and demand innovation and variety in their games and developers; challenge yourselves more rather than going with a tried a true formula.
PS: This article is not a knock on those who loves playing COD, to each his own. No COD fan was hurt in the writing of this article.