In the dozen years since I used this site as a platform for bad jokes, Wii apologia, and po-faced discussion on design, many gaming trends have come, and in some cases, gone. Having ignored most of these shifts in the industry, I will now document these trends and explain why I am better than each of them.
These already existed when this site launched in 200…something. As I am competing with my dead grandfather at having the fewest friends, I worried social gaming would lead to comradery and therefore defeat. This fear was unfounded, however, as years on gaming forums have led me to accumulate exactly zero new acquaintances. “Who is that condescending guy who only posts single sentences that are obviously sarcastic?” is what I assumed people would say. Warnings from moderators and replies from people who thought I was serious are instead all I got. Many true artists are not understood until their work is reanalyzed and contextualized, often years or decades after their deaths. And that is why World of Warcraft is not a good game.
- Mobile games
Another one that sort of existed pre-videolamer but has exploded in popularity since our first demise. Mobile games are not inherently bad but the designs are most often based around how they will generate ongoing cash flow and thus suck. It was sad to see Nintendo’s attempt at charging upfront for a whole, good game with Super Mario Run fall flat. People seem to prefer being asked to spend money constantly after downloading “free” games. If you have a statistician on your team in order to optimize reward timing and money extractions from players, you are probably making a bad game. Or a game that was good before it was diced up to fit your predatory business model. Game Dev Story is a lot of fun, though, so the mobile space wasn’t a total catastrophe.
- Games featuring teenagers
There are few things as bad as stubbing your toe in a room you’ve been through thousands of times, but being reminded of the inevitability of your death is one of them. And boy do young people seem to scream “you are going to die, old man!” every chance they get. Being unusually attuned to angst even as a child, I have always avoided games with teenagers in them lest I be reminded of the silent nothingness that will be my life’s reward. Oddly enough I never minded games with children in them. They are almost closer to not being alive than teens in an absolute number sense. Also, I once stubbed my toe on a weight in my room so badly I couldn’t walk normally for weeks.
- Lords Management Sims
Or MOBAs as some of the kids call them. I have long taken the indefensible position that WarCraft 3 stole too much from Heroes of Might and Magic to be respected and as such, all of its progeny should be dismissed. Really though I’m just backporting a bullshit reason for my apathy. Competitive gaming didn’t appeal to me on the Genesis and it hasn’t in the new millennium, either. Coop is cool though. Ever play General Chaos? It’s pretty good.
- Gacha games
I had an argument with a sister-in-law about video games and whether they were all simply gambling. Basically I declared most mobile and free to play stuff was primarily getting its ideas from the casino industry and that that was a bad thing. She argued that it seemed like it was just more of a thing and not a new thing. She also doesn’t know anything about games and I do because I’ve spent a lot of money buying games with the hope one or two explode in value because gaming is not gambling. Just the games that are.
- Games with music
Since music was introduced in 2011 I have done my darnedest to stay away from any games that are diluted with worthless sound waves arranged in specific pitches at predesignated rhythms. Music is simply another tool the deep state uses us to keep us soft and feminized so we may never know our true alpha potential. Tyrants from all history across the globe have feared the unchained man and so invented music to pacify if not mollify us. Few people are aware that water fluoridation was actually started by the ancient Romans – there was a reason they created their aqueducts, and our education system suspiciously harps on how great an achievement they were. This nefarious process of forced-fluoridation has been known for ages to keep us docile and womanly and in fact, the original title of the Communist Manifesto was the Communist Momifesto (though obviously in German). Marx was tapping into the same vein as the Romans and the traitors who invented music. Deny us our masculinity and deny us our freedom to pee standing up.
- Battle royales
There’s a deep irony that I strongly prefer playing with other people yet never play games online. It’s both that playing with strangers is unappealing and that competitive games have never appealed to me. The fact that the video games I like are not close to being actual games (in that single player story-based games have no actual winner and loser – the player wins or stops, the rules are all over the place and new ones often introduced, etc.) has been rattling around in my head recently so look forward to some inane retread of ideas people brought up in 2010 soon on this site. Also, I like to feel as if I’ve finished a game, so here is an inane retread of that idea I recently wrote.
- Season passes
I don’t entirely understand what these are. You pay a lot upfront and they give you DLC later maybe? It’s an odd name if that’s correct. Though I admit I have some familiarity as I bought season passes for the family to the nearest Six Flags park last summer. Overall, the parks still nickel and dime (or ten and twenty dollar bill) you for any food or drink (and we aren’t suicidal enough to purchase the plan that comes with two meals, free drinks, and diabetes) but the season passes were worth it for parking alone. Even with the old Coke can deal that existed when I was 15 that I assume still exists, paying $20 to park every time you come really makes the ordeal expensive. A four year old has maybe enough to do at the park but if you have, say a two year old with my last name who is also my child, there really isn’t enough to do with them. Maybe three rides. So really make sure the people you are buying season passes for can make use of them and try to lay off the $26 churros.
- Open World Games
These games are all hallways, no rooms. They are the line without the ride. A perpetual purgatory, without the sensory payoff of Heaven or even Hell. After having played the two TRUE GAMER best open world games and being underwhelmed with both, this genre may just not be for me. Breath of the Wild was neat but kind of boring and largely devoid of things I found worth seeing. Elden Ring was like Dark Souls 4 with a 100 hours of riding a horse sprinkled between stages. I have a solution that is free for the taking: open world games should just be Shadow of the Colossus-likes. Put some space to explore and puzzle-out between the meaningful designs and encounters.
- Games with text
The worst of all the recent fads, games with reading really bum me out. To quote Butthead, if I wanted to read, I’d go to school. Unfortunately, these games for academics and Rhodes Scholars have taken over the industry and left me with a thin slice of content playable without a PhD in literacy. I’m a simple man who wants sounds and colors flashing on the screen in random patterns that seem alterable by me with the buttons I’m mashing in the drool dripping controller in my unwashed hands. Leave plots to the elites in their ivory towers.
So now that I’ve ruled out the 97 most common types of games, what the hell have I been playing? My focus has shifted from the A and AA Japanese games of the SNES, PS1, and PS2 eras to Western indie games and being too busy to play video games. Some favorites I played last year were Disco Elysium, Return of the Obra Dinn, and Slay the Spire. None Japanese, all from small indie teams.
There are plenty of interesting and odd single player games coming out today so I’m not wanting for content. It’d be untrue to pretend the indies and smaller games from big publishers entirely filled the void left by games like Metropolismania and Irritating Stick, though. As with most of what I’ve written this decade, and some of what Christian has, we are old men yearning for the past underneath all our philosophizing and bluster.
It is impossible to deny that each era of gaming brings us new genres, innovative ideas, and generally better presentation – in some ways I agree with the common sentiment that games have never been better. But is it also possible that things of value, ideas, feelings, and so on have been lost in the many years the industry has figured out how to grind a dime out of grandma for a matching piece of candy or are we merely aging men approaching midlife crises who cannot let go of the past? Hopefully we will be able to unravel why both things are true between now and whenever the site becomes unprofitable.
I know this post is tongue in cheek, but you’re on to something about Warcraft III. I always found the game off putting due to its great focus on the Hero units. It ran contrary to the idea of a strategy game centered around armies.
But on the other hand, it allowed for more story-focused missions in which small parties of characters went on quests.
And if you think about it, the Hero system not only lead to MOBAs, but to World of Warcraft as well. That’s a game that’s literally “everyone gets to be a Warcraft Hero Unit”.
So basically Warcraft 3 ruined the industry. Checkmate
I agree the hero focus in WC3 was terrible (I found it finicky and micromanagey in a way that ruins RTSes).
The first DOTA-like was a custom map made for Starcraft though (and was pretty popular at the time, though IIRC it didn’t hit the popularity of the tower defense subgenre). It was pretty interesting the ways people found to make “Hero-like” mechanics in Starcraft even though it wasn’t built for them.
I do wonder if Blizzard ended up being inspired by some of these custom maps, and at least made the scenario creation more flexible, or even added some features to the base game.
When WC3 came out, the ability to add leveling, custom abilities and items made DOTA a lot more flexible and it became a big breakout hit (lot of my friends were bitter at the time, because they preferred one of the earlier MOBAs that got strangled).
Future Cop LAPD, mentioned in the article, is another fun one to play.
Thanks, I learned something and will now have to make up new reasons to not care about MOBAs.
I remember trying to have LAN parties with classmates in college, and a few of the underclassmen kept pushing us all to play Dota All Stars. Eventually I stopped going because I wanted to play literally anything else, but couldn’t drum up enough people.
I wasn’t even 23 years old and I already felt like I was obsolete.
is stubbing your toe better or worse than intentionally kicking a bowling ball and breaking your toe? hitting baseballs in a batting cage and breaking your thumb?
It was only half a bowling ball.
I wish I had something particularly witty or insightful to say, but I mostly wanted to wave a hand and say ‘me too!’ to a lot of this, and that it was a delight to read (and congratulate Jay on having a little 2 year old person with his last name, since that’s news to me).
I will say that I really like some games that are MOSTLY text (Ace Attorney, Planescape Torment), but that might be that I’m SO old that I can vaguely remember games that used text because graphics were a luxury :D