The Unfulfilled Potential of Video Games
Posted: Posted June 21st by mariomguy
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This is a video I hold near and dear to my heart. I haven't played much games recently outside of Fortnite, and even then I only really enjoy playing it with a friend, and it's not even my favorite kind of game to play with a friend.

So many games are relying on combat now, and you don't see much games aiming to resolve problems in non-violent ways. Games like Journey seem to be once per generation. Sure, puzzle games do exist, and casual/troll games are plenty, but for the most part gaming is limiting itself to what has already been done before: combat, combat, and more combat.

Coming from someone who LOVES Smash Bros, there's more to games than combat. You can create breathtaking worlds with fun characters to engage with, but just looking at an E3 sizzle reel it's hard not to meld the games together and slap a generic label on it. Despite the great variety in portrayals, they're all just different versions of killing other enemies to proceed.

This has been my opinion on the biggest problem with gaming since at least the PS2 era, and I remember seeing so many E3 sizzle reels and events thinking the same thing. Aside from the few games I am genuinely excited for, the medium deserves better than this.

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I agree that we should move past "just" combat. That's why games with insanely competitive combat are so interesting to me. That's why games like Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2 are so valuable. (Well, TF2 also has some of the best character design and weirdest lore I've ever seen, so that helps.)

Posted June 21st by Party Smasher
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You absolutely don't get the point, do you? Most games glorify combat as the main driver for gameplay, leaving every other possible motivation in the dust.

Posted June 21st by mariomguy
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That does seem to be true for big budget studios since 2011 or so (if not earlier), but the indie game dev scene paints a very very different picture.

I guess the biggest problem is that if you're spending ludicrous amounts of money developing your game, you want a safe return on investment, so an fps is the best way to do that. It's sort of like the big budget movie studio trend of rebooting or remaking existing franchises. E3 therefore really isn't a good means of seeing the game development industry as a whole, because big budget publishers have the most pull there.

Meanwhile, go to something like steam or kickstarter and the game development field is really in the best place it's ever been. Lots of small-to-medium studios producing interesting or creative games in a large variety of genres. There are also web games, html5 games, etc. At least two members of GTX0 are in development on their own games as well.

Overall the industry is quite well, plenty of potential is being tapped, but it just doesn't necessarily get the media exposure that common-denominator FPS games get.

Posted June 21st by Xhin
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I agree indie games do portray a better picture of the breadth and scope of gaming, but big-budget studios are the core of gaming innovation, growth, talent, and wealth. By comparison, the indie scene is vast and overwhelming. Projects don't get major exposure unless they're a major studio release or a major hit. And more and more those major hits still revolve around conflict.

I disagree ROI depends on combat. Look at the success of Journey, or Little Big Planet, or Wii Sports Resort, or Portal. Combat is not necessary for a game to be successful, or fun. It's the same trap Hollywood has fallen in - Innovation is risky, so don't do anything innovative and just let movies die. I had a lot more fun watching Netflix's Somebody Feed Phil than I had with a major Hollywood studio release in a very, very, VERY long time. And same for gaming. I love games, just not the ones that are shoved in our face.

Posted June 22nd by mariomguy
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I do get the point, I'm just not concerned with it. I'm more concerned with delineating combat as filler and combat as a design choice that is explored to a high degree.

Posted June 22nd by Party Smasher
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But we've already explored it endlessly. Rather than looking in more nooks and crannies of this tiny little island, AAA games should make an attempt to explore the rest of the world.

Posted June 22nd by mariomguy
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I think that it would be interesting in an abstract sense if they did, but I personally wouldn't care - especially not enough to make claims about what people "should" do with their art.

Also, we haven't explored combat endlessly. Some people making derivative games doesn't mean the abstract concepts they're referencing have been run dry.

Posted June 22nd by Party Smasher
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Xhin pretty much said everything I would say. I get what all of you are saying, though. There is combat in my own game--it is an action RPG after all. But I think the narrative is more of the draw in our game. Then again, puzzles are equally important to the gameplay in our game...in fact fighting is a bit like a puzzle. I don't think it's fair to completely dismiss combat, but I don't think combat should be the only drawinf facet in a game's gameplay.

Posted June 22nd by Laxan
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Lets take a minute and think about why Combat is so ingrained in video games and why it has stuck around since the very first video game ever made. But first lets define what "Combat" means:

Combat means: a fight or contest between individuals or groups; active fighting in a war; to fight with; to struggle against.
So basically Combat is an act of contest between opponents. Just about everything in Human history has revolved around or involved contests in some form. You know what else is spread throughout human history all the way back to biblical times? War and violence. So you are taking 2 things that are human nature and asking why they are so ingrained in our media that we consume.

The very first video game ever made was invented in October 1958 by a physicist. A game that was designed after tennis had you hitting a ball towards an opponent. Since sports are a form of contest, this makes the game a combat related games. this means you must defeated your opponent in a contest to be the winner.
Look at the video games that came after this. Look at the most popular video games through out the last 40 years and it is not hard to see why we have the video games we have today or why so many of them involved combat. Look at the games that have been the most influential on the growth of video games and you'll see that almost all of them involved combat in some fashion. Yes, you can have video games where you don't have violence but name a game and I bet you can find some form of contest going on.

For humans if we dont have something to struggle and contest against, something to combat we become bored. Now, am I saying that every game should have the same answer to how the player must battle or contest with their opponents? No, not everything should involve shooting it in the face until they die or your run out of ammo. But you do have to ask yourself "Why have video games that involved combat as their main focus thrived so much" and the answer is not because they were made. The answer is that the majority of gamers like that kind of gameplay, so naturally game developers are going to make more games like that.

Posted June 22nd by Q
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Yeah, I was gonna say, I actually think there are way *more* games that don't rely on combat and violence today than in years past. Not to mention, pretty much everyone I know is still playing Animal Crossing, which as far as I can tell having never played it, it's not centered around violence, right? I also don't necessarily agree that a game built around combat innately means it's not "innovative."

I dunno. Would I like to see more major studios build something not reliant on violence? Yeah, of course. It's one of the reasons I think I gravitate more towards stealth games. Violence is usually a part of it, but the core gameplay is often about *avoiding* combat situations, which I find engaging and intriguing as a game concept. Puzzle games are pretty hit or miss for me, as even the ones I kinda love like The Witness or Baba is You inevitably, and too quickly, gets to a point where it just makes me feel stupid. Platformers are not really my thing, typically. And I do enjoy some of those more narrative, chose-driven games, like Life is Strange.

Part of it is that it's just easy to build a game around combat. Hideo Kojima just made a big-budget game in which combat was a small part of it, and while the game might have been "innovative," it also...wasn't very fun? (I mean, that's not really *why* Death Stranding wasn't that fun or engaging, but it points to some difficulty in trying to make a game specifically in which the core gameplay isn't violence can result in a game that's kinda boring or not particularly enthralling for wide audiences.) And then you get your games like Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, which I can appreciate but just don't grab me in any real way.

But even your examples of successful games not built around such gameplay kinda gives you your answer. Journey was a gorgeous game. It sold well and received much critical acclaimed. I loved it, personally. But it nearly bankrupted thatgamecompany and took over a year to become profitable. That doesn't exactly give the huge studios reason to pour a lot of money into such projects or to make their big releases that type of innovative or experimental game. Little Big Planet is also an interesting example to give, because the only way you can really argue it was financially successful upon release was if you viewed it through the lens of indie games. Its initial sales were not particularly exciting. At best, it did "ok." Nothing awful, but nothing amazing either. And Wii Sports is kinda cheating because it literally came with the console and was effectively a tech demo. Not sure any other game has ever truly been that, save maybe some VR experiences. Portal is sort of the outlier here. And while I loooove Portal and Portal 2, it's at its core a puzzle game. You don't typically see even innovative puzzle games at the top of the sales charts. Portal/Portal 2 are pretty much the exceptions, outside of mobile games.

You often like to compare things to cinema, but it's sort of always been true that a lot of the true innovations of the medium of film have come on the fringes; the small, indie filmmakers, the experimental filmmakers, foreign filmmakers in nations that do more funding of artistically driven rather than commercially driven filmmaking. It's not to say you can't find examples of great or innovative filmmakers within the Hollywood system throughout its history, though typically, they tend to be from earlier periods where everyone is sort of figuring it out. Even some of the "greats" weren't really so much "innovative" as much as they were just great at understanding their medium.

All that is to say: it makes sense to me that Hollywood is not going to drop a ton of money and make major releases out of their more innovative or different films because typically those don't sell very well to the masses. Just the same as it makes sense to me that major video game publishers will do the same thing. Indie games are sort of there precisely so that developers have a place to build innovative, unique, or creative games that pose too much of a risk for major publishers to promote as major releases.

Posted June 22nd by Jet Presto
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