I’m ecstatic at the gentle shifting of norms in gaming. Simultaneously, I’m frustrated that some things are shifting too slowly.
With the releases of The Witness, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, Oxenfree and Firewatch, among others, it seems that games that explore more nuanced, grown-up themes are comfortably slipping into the mainstream consciousness and scoring some significant media coverage.
This is very positive, in contrast to less consumer-friendly trends like publishers getting bolder about releasing full-price, feature-light games ( Destiny, Hitman and Street Fighter V), punishing early adopting fans with little save a clumsily PR’ed content roadmap to placate them.
Some things aren’t changing fast enough. Representation and diversity in blockbuster titles is still woeful, and homogenisation of gameplay among big titles is becoming wearisome. Supposedly this is market-driven, a hangover of console gaming’s preoccupation with young men.
Overall I’m positive, though, thanks to a new arrival. I recently sat with my newborn son snoozing in my lap while trying to unlock The Witness’s deepest secrets. I can’t wait to introduce him to the wonderful worlds made possible by the creativity of game developers: colourful concoctions of fun, challenge, discovery, empathy, stress, strategy, puzzlement, wonderment and terror.
The little chap couldn’t give a monkey’s about whether Jonathan Blow’s magnum opus is overpriced or the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided preorder scheme was tone deaf; whether this or that version runs at 1080p or microtransactions spoil a game’s economy.
I hope that by the time he pops up in publishers’ target market demographic segmentation charts it will be a common occurrence for big mainstream games to Oh, sure, it’s all sunshine and positivity now, isn’t it? Do drop us another line when he starts shoving jam-slathered fingers into console disc trays. Perhaps we’ll smear your New 3DS with Marmite to help ease you in.
Lord, I’m discouraged
The creators of the Xbox are in a unique position this console cycle: Microsoft’s biggest problem is Microsoft itself. The past few weeks have been eerily reminiscent of the initial reveal of the Xbox One. Sony didn’t have to do anything to try and convince people to buy a PS4 instead of an Xbox One. It was like Don Mattrick had been bribed by Sony with some of the howlers he was coming out with.
It’s happening again. “It’s not like I’m going to ship a screwdriver set with every console,” Phil Spencer said when asked to qualify what he meant about hardware upgrades to consoles. I understand that a bit of confidentiality is probably in order at these early stages, but you’re not going to win the confidence of your customers with remarks like that. Especially when all your ‘exclusives’ now seem to be getting PC ports. It looks very much like Microsoft is abandoning ship, and the lack of transparency is only going to drive people to its rivals.
And now the bigwigs have proposed the closure of one of their most innovative studios and ceased development on Fable Legends, a very promising, platform-exclusive title. Mere weeks before it was allegedly to enter open beta, no less. That a game has been allowed to come so close to completion
“Games that explore nuanced, grown-up themes are slipping into the mainstream consciousness”