I’ve been seeing a lot of games pushing towards cinematic game play more often lately. I love story, I love movies, and I love games, but I need to ask… Does making a game more cinematic necessarily make it better? It, in some ways, seems akin to throwing a sex scene into a movie for no other reason than adding a bit of T&A. In all honestly, maybe I just answered my own question. I don’t really know. Hell, even the trailers for games promote the cinemas more than the actual game. With hotly anticipated games like Heavy Rain, Final Fantasy XIII, BioShock 2, Lost Planet 2, etc, I look at the sea of cinema and wonder, “Where’s the game play?”
I’m a big fan of RPGs, not so much of the FPS games, but I play them occasionally. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time playing Xbox Arcade games. These simple, repetitive games have had me hooked for years. Yet when I play a major release, after just a few weeks, I finish the game, sell it, and move on to the next hot title. A lot of developers now espouse the replay value of their games, but the reality is their said “replay value” is limited. I still rock Pac-Man occasionally, always trying to beat my high score, but will I ever pick up Katamari again? Or Eternal Sonata? Or play through Bioshock or Brutal Legend again? I very much doubt it. Once I beat a game, the thrill of the story is gone. Yet, we are increasingly seeing the tools of our hobby move into the realm of interactive movies rather than games. It was just reported that the intro of Heavy Rain will be a nine minute cinematic where the players can move the camera. Well damn! I get to move the camera? I feel spoiled.
Then we have all the various peripherals flooding the market. Are these innovations truly revolutionary or just gimmicks? I love the Nintendo Wii. It is the default Party System for my household. The full body interaction of some games makes it a blast to play with friends, but the games are generally lacking. Even Microsoft and Sony are jumping onto the motion sensitive games bandwagon. Soon we will have Microsoft’s Natal and Sony’s Arc, but will these peripherals add to our gameplay experience or merely wow us into amusement then collect dust from now until the next generation of gaming platforms is released? Already, developers are discussing the implementations of 3D technology into gaming, TV’s are coming 3D ready with motion controls built-in (sans a traditional remote), and a company by the name of Zyxio has created the SensaWaft that allows users to use their very breath to control a mouse cursor.
I’ve been gaming since the original text-based Zork on the Commodore 64. Maybe it’s nostalgia, but what happened to the simple games of yore? I loved Mass Effect, reveled in Borderlands, giggled at Lego Star Wars, and shuddered during BioShock. But, what was glorious about those games was that the story didn’t overshadow the game, it supplemented it. Recently, I played Uncharted 2. The game is brilliant, but at the same time, it is a movie. More often than not, I found myself nudging the scenes along rather than controlling the action. On the Wii, we saw the retail release of Tony Hawk’s Ride, a miserable attempt to bring skateboarding into the living room, and soon with Natal, who knows what will explode forth.
So, do I think gaming is going down the toilet? No. Do I think that games are less fun? Maybe. Will I stop playing them anytime soon? Not likely. Even a developer like Bioware making the story part of the game experience, I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that soon I’ll be pressing buttons to watch scenes acted out as opposed to influencing the scenes with the actions I feel appropriate. Or maybe I’ll just have to learn to stand on one leg while juggling seven balls to play Fable 3. I hear the Court Jester character will be a blast.