Editor’s note: While I don’t necessarily think that guns are the root of all video game evil, I do find myself frequently ignoring the myriad FPS sequels that seem to dominate the industry. S.P. brings up some interesting points, but I think there’s a happy medium to be found here between making money and developing innovative games. What do you think? -Jay
Are you excited to play Mass Effect 2, or will you be too busy wiping the dust off your Wii to play No More Heroes 2? Are you still getting your rank up in Modern Warfare 2? Hey, at least Splinter Cell Conviction is delayed now, so we’ll have more time to play other sequels with guns in them.
Sequels with guns simply dominate the discussions of hardcore gamers. If they’re not talking about a sequel with guns in it, they’re almost certainly talking about a game that will soon have guns.
Other than select Nintendo products on the Wii, these games are usually the ones that make publishers the most money, and they’re almost always the most heavily marketed. Reliable as they may be, these serialized shooters represent an enormous display of cowardice by game publishers. They would much rather make a quick buck than take a creative risk and, you know, do something crazy like advance the medium.
Should we put down these sequels and walk away, or should we embrace these rifled reiterations? Because five just wouldn’t be enough, here are six arguments for the death of sharpshooter sequels.
1. Stagnation is inevitable
How many games with guns can there be? How many times can we buy the same games with bigger numbers slapped on the end? Will the next fifty times I hold an AK-47 and throw a frag grenade at an armored enemy combatant in a war-torn, gray and brown wasteland be just as exciting as the first fifty?
Just like we got sick of playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games or going to the arcade and collecting Jiggies, we’ll get sick of Call of Duty and Halo — and game publishers better be ready to adapt when that happens.
2. The audience is changing
The average age of today’s gamer is 35. Your grandma spent more hours playing Wii Sports this afternoon than you’ve been outside today, and your girlfriend can kick your ass in Peggle any day of the week. No matter how you look at it, the people who play games today are of greater age and gender variety than ever before.
Will they want to play Kill of Death of Dying 3 or Brain Splatter 4? I don’t think so. Game publishers will be in trouble when their audience stops wanting to shoot everything that moves.
3. They hurt the public image of video games
Jack Thompson is gone, but that doesn’t mean video games are any closer to gaining respect as an artistic medium. Do video games even deserve it? With the way game publishers spurt out sequels like post-Taco-Bell fecal eruptions, video games look like nothing more than the latest Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation album or the next Girls Gone Wild DVD. Just more of the same.
To today’s publishers, video games are commodities that are sold and profited from, and that’s precisely the image that non-gamers see when they think of video games. Considering how many games require blowing peoples’ faces off, it’s no wonder people think of murder simulators first and fun a distant second.
4. So many possibilities are still unexplored
If a unique and innovative game idea falls in the forest, does it make a sound? For every conservative first person shooter sequel that is produced, an original idea goes unfunded and uncreated. I’m not jaded enough to believe that developers have no creativity, but it’s impossible to believe that we’ve reached the peak potential of video games. We’re not even close.
New control methods like motion control and touch screens might help, but the stuff we’ve seen so far has come nowhere close to superseding any of the big-budget retail drudgery we normally get. Where’s my Saigon hooker game? Where’s the game where I navigate the dark and treacherous annals of Gary Busey’s mind?
5. They cheapen artistic vision
Yeah, I’m talking to you, BioShock 2. 2K Games green-lighting a follow-up that no one wanted is the most egregious offender I can think of for the damage sequels can do to games that don’t need them. “Let’s throw in multiplayer, add more guns, and extend a completed narrative beyond its (admittedly crappy) ending, so we can make more ornate money hats and piss off everyone who cared about the first game!”
This is not the sequel BioShock creative director Ken Levine had in mind — and that’s assuming he had one in mind at all. Needless sequels and adding guns to games that don’t need them (hello, Mirror’s Edge) does nothing but mock the creative forces behind video games, and at a time when the video game industry desperately strives for relevance this behavior only hurts the medium.
6. They divert focus from the things that games should do better
When you make a video game sequel, you inevitably think about how you can improve upon the first game. You need cooler weapons, bigger levels, more gameplay modes, bigger tits and more Michael Bay-sized explosions. More, more, more and — more specifically — more of what you had already. Too bad you ignored all the stuff that games still suck at!
Game stories still suck, women (with few exceptions) are simply two-legged boob pedestals, physics engines are buggy, artificial intelligence is dumb, our characters’ faces have less articulation than a drunkard with a lisp, and animation has barely progressed at all since the inception of three-dimensional gaming. As a medium there’s so much more to be accomplished, but the game industry’s focus on iteration and evolution of existing designs stifles progress in the areas that matter most.
Video games are expensive and risky to fund. The economy sucks right now. Fine. I get it. These facts do not, however, prevent risk-taking. They don’t stop publishers from trying new things and seeing what sticks. Video game publishers need to grow a pair and show us what they’ve got, not just for their bottom line but for the sake of the medium.