No, it wasn’t. My high school was exactly like Bullworth. Sure I went to a public high school in suburban Rhode Island but everything that could possibly persist in those dissimilar environments did. My school was filled with jocks, nerds and preppy kids who were a little too drunk to make it in the nearby Academies. But so was everyone elses. Everyone can identify with Bullworth and the surrounding suburban towns because it’s a game derived from pop culture movies like Outside Providence, Teen Wolf and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. As such the rich settings of L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption and Bully appeal to us regardless if we’ve watched any particularly large amount of 50’s noire, 60’s cowboy westerns or 80’s high school movies.
But all of this represents something that can only be defined in an era where Rockstar’s games are accepted for art. Where they are held up as prestine works that represent something greater than a “Columbine simulator” or any of the other scandalous labels that the uninformed press have labelled Rockstar as. Even when Rockstar was at a great height after the release of GTA III their works were perceived even by the people who played them as just that ambiguous word; fun. GTA was touted not for it’s intricate story of a challenged man facing life beyond bars but as good fun to run around and shoot cops. It’s what made Rockstar what it is today. They were filled with the controversy of Led Zeppelin or Elvis and not respected for their work as they are today.
I find this era of Rockstar’s history to be it’s most amazing because the turn around in their work is truly something to be lauded over. If you gave the GTA franchise to any other developer in the world at that time surely GTA IV would have been out two years later, would have been very similar except the physics, gun play and calamity would skyrocket in quality. But Rockstar refused to pull a Dead Space and instead focus on something very few people ever noticed; The Story. They made their iconic anti-hero characters stick, their worlds become rich in era appropriate music, clothing and feel. As a result every Rockstar game is exactly the same formula but still scores very highly. The variation in it’s characters, plotlines and amazing worlds make a formula new and exciting every single time no matter how many times you played through Bully or Grand Theft Auto IV.
So, why do games like Halo 4 and Call of Duty get trashed for their repetitiveness time and time again? Sure, they sell millions but even the most recent Call of Duty has reached a bit of a down slide Simply because they refuse to see their gameplay architectures as a formula. They may recognize the repetitiveness and reviewers and developers may even call it a formula but they refuse to recognize the true application of this word. If Call of Duty made subtle improvements to it’s campaign like GTA does to it’s mini games and story sequences alike surely it would score higher. If Halo 4 had instead been a tale of great difference like GTA San Andreas to Bully surely it would also not have received 4’s and 80’s but instead 5’s and 100’s. These games emulate a greater problem in the gaming industry, a problem that has lead to it’s recession before and always could again.
The gaming industry as it currently stands is in an odd position. It stands at extremes and is killing itself for it. While on one side you have compelete gambles of huge blockbuster games like Halo 4 and Darksiders II that are ultimately repetitive sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. On the other side you have the indie games that represent the industries “creative” outlet. But I’ve yet to see anything this supposedly “creative” outlet has made make it onto the big stage AAA games. Why isn’t there a game with Bastion’s narrator? Or Limbo’s creative use of art style? Or even Amnesia’s philosophy on making me piss myself wet?
Because while these games are seen as “creative” they aren’t respected the way Grand Theft Auto is. They are not truly seen as art to be replicated. Developers refuse to recognize the formula that exists within these games as compatible with their $50,000,000 projects. Sure, it’s hard to see how a game would incorporate Limbo’s art style into a 15 hour game that is completely original and new. But that’s what creating something new and interesting is; hard. Blizzard didn’t change the entire MMO genre overnight. In fact; it took seven years of hard dedicated creative work. As such every penny that that company earns is well deserved but is Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 going to blow the doors off?
No. It may apply it’s formula with a new coat of paint and millions of angsty teenagers and dad’s in Wal-Mart commercials alike will buy it but guess what; it’s killing the game industry. The numbers show it across the board, the game industry is down. The press blames it on the lack of new hardware but did Picasso need a shiny new Microsoft Surface to change art forever? No, he did it with watercolor, something you can pick up for $3 at Target. Anyone who says the game industry is down because of lack of new hardware is only recognizing the gaming industry as lazy and frankly; worthless.