Stay pos­i­tive

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”

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