Before we begin, let me apologize for the somewhat clickbait-y title. It’s just that “Most Modern AAA Games Aren’t Bad, You’re Just No Long Impressed by What They Have to Offer and Your Brain Craves a Challenge” doesn’t fit in the header. Regardless, the spirit of the title, you’ll find, is accurate. I hope. If not, you’re well within your Internet rights to report me to the Internet Police. Let me also apologize if this article seems rambling and odd – because it is. It’s mostly something I want to get off my chest and put into words, but also something I think needs sharing. If not, well… you know what to do.
Alright then, Professor Rehbein, what do you mean by AAA games aren’t bad and I’m just bored?
First of all, I’m not a professor. Secondly, what I mean is it’s important to contextualize what we mean by “bad.” Many AAA games are very well made. While they too often ship unfinished and unpolished, and that counts against their “score,” it’s fair to say that a lot of resources and manpower went into making these games. They look pretty, they sound great, and, ideally, they play well. So, then what do I mean by “AAA games aren’t bad?”
If you don’t know what that is, I’ll save you the trip to Google. It means the process of fitting everything into the same mold. In this context, it means that many AAA games start to feel the same. Sure, you might be fighting in space, or during WWII, or in a post-apocalyptic future filled with mechanized rodents, but chances are your experiences will be the same. You shoot, you get shot, you hide to let your health recover, repeat until credits. But why does this happen?
Big publishers take on a lot of risks when they start a project. If their game is a success, then great, they might make some profit and someone’s getting a bonus. If their game gets even a mediocre reception and doesn’t sell well, then they’ve lost money and someone’s getting a spanking. Publishers are often not even happy with a “good” game. They want a “great” one. 95+ average review scores great. It’s why all we seem to see are sequels to successful franchises. New IPs exist, but it’s the sequels that top the charts.
Furthermore, publishers and developers will look at successful games and see what worked. What existed in the games that sold well. They adopt it, make the game, and the process continues elsewhere. Pretty soon, the majority of games start to all feel, sound, and look alike.
Dr. Rehbein, if the games are built off the backs of good games, why don’t I like them and why am I bored?
First of all, I’m not a doctor. Secondly, I can answer both points with this: your brain needs variety. Your brain loves new experiences, no matter what they are. If you linger too long in familiarity, it loses interest. You shouldn’t play one video game for the rest of your life any more than you play one genre for the rest of your life. Of course, you will get bored far sooner playing just one game than one genre. At least within that genre, there are some differences from game to game. But not enough.
Now, ideally, playing in one genre might actually be okay. If all you like are FPSs, that’s fine – but if every game in that genre becomes homogenized then you run into a problem. Thus, the AAA games that are homogenized are viewed as good by some and bad by others. That’s not to say every time someone says a game is bad that means they’re just bored. Bad AAA games exist; oh boy do they exist. However, people often overstate how bad things are. Individually, the games are fine. Taken as a whole as it all blends together into a grey, goopy, slop. And slop is bad. Thus, your brain gets bored of what you’re feeding it.
Sir Rehbein, what can be done to fix this situation? I don’t like being bored!
First of all, I’m not a knight. Secondly, that depends on which situation you’re referring to. Since I’m writing the questions for you, I know exactly what you mean.
Situation 1 is homogenization. Fixing this would be nigh impossible, and certainly for the average consumer. This problem is one that has to be solved from within the industry. However, there’s a snag: Homogenization works. After all, they wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t make them money. Have you ever tried to talk someone out of making money? Pretty tough, especially when security throws you out before you can get to the office. The good news is that they will change course on their own. Maybe. Nothing lasts forever, though. Remember that streak of zombie movies we had, and now we barely get any? Just like that (and it’ll happen to super hero movies, too). Consumer fatigue will set in and publishers will notice and change course.
Situation 2 is boredom, and this one you can fix! Yay! It’s also a very easy solution. Just play different games. Try out games you wouldn’t have tried in the past. Explore new genres, even! If you don’t like racing games, but you see one is on sale for $3, try it out. What have you got to lose except three bucks? Have you stuck with Western games all your life? Branch out into Japanese games (but bring goggles and rain boots). Trying games from other countries is a great way to slay your boredom. Of course, when trying to find unique and weird games, indie games are great. The quality will vary, wildly, and there is some homogenization (specifically with so many using pixel art), but often the ideas are new.
God Emperor Rehbein, you’ve done it again! You’ve saved my hobby, my marriage, and even my life. Please, let me give you some money.
That won’t be necessary, but thank you. Also, you’re wrong. Rather, you might be. See, what I described might help you rekindle your love of games and see things more clearly. It’s possible the problem lies not in the games themselves, but in gaming in general. There’s a chance you just might not feel as engaged and challenged by the general act of sitting down and staring at the screen. If that’s the case, then it’s possible that you, dare I say it, should stop playing video games.
Not forever! However, some time apart can give some much needed perspective. Your brain will certainly thank you for it. If after all that, you still think all modern AAA games are bad and dumb and there’s no fun games anymore, then… I ‘unno. This has just been my own meandering opinion, but it’s a damn good one, if I say so myself. If it hasn’t swayed you right away, that’s okay. However, give it some thought. Re-examine some games you thought were terrible. Re-examine gaming in general.
If this is all just your opinion, why did I waste six hours of my life reading it? What was the point?
Six hours? Really?
The point is this: your brain craves variety. It craves a challenge. Don’t keep feeding it the same games over and over again. And yes, part of the blame goes to the industry, because they’re the ones who keep producing the same game over and over again. However, there are alternatives. Different genres, weird games, foreign games, indie games, no games at all. Also, you don’t have to abandon your favorite genre forever. Just mix things up now and then.
The opinions expressed are those of the author (duh) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the KeenGamer staff.