‘This Generation is Over’ Takedown

I didn’t want to write this. Up until now I have written three takedowns all on pieces I fervently disagreed with and I stand by them wholeheartedly. I constantly threaten to do takedown of particularly egregious pieces on twitter every so often and almost never do. Why? Well I have over time set down rules for myself. They’re not written down, they’re just thing that naturally grew out of my sense of fairness, kindness and respect towards great thinkers and the need to point out when they’re off their rocker and have no fucking clue what they’re talking about. I wait a while, at least a week mostly to calm down, but also to see if I can still be bothered to sit down and go line by line refuting the piece. That’s another thing. The piece has to have so much wrong with it, mostly in factual and conceptual areas that it makes it worth going line by line. If the conclusion or the theory is what I disagree with, then I’ll say so, say why and move on. I’m sure there are more things that I do that I’m not thinking of, but this is enough for now.

I bring all that up, because in looking over this piece it’s not too bad. It is wrong at several points and in one part down right insulting. But it isn’t worth the time to go through and tear it to shreds. However, the author Henry McMunn got in contact with me and pointed out that we are in fact colleagues and saying his piece was a waste of my time and not going into detail was downright unprofessional. I had no idea we worked for the same site or editorial staff, but apparently Nightmare Mode and Pixels or Death teamed up while I was staring into space wasting my life away instead of writing or on hiatus as it’s usually called. I have to concede this point. It is very unprofessional and that is what caused the scales to tip in the other direction. So here we are. Let’s get this over with.

Begin

This is the image from the post itself and already sets up expectations for the content of the piece. Before reading it I thought this was going to be on a completely different topic and therefore go and end up somewhere very different than it really did. Be careful with your advertising, or in this case titles and images, it can bite you in the ass.

As a games reviewer, I find myself falling into a few bad habits every now and then. Amongst them are spamming the word ‘visceral’, using lists of three and beginning articles with personal anecdotes.

I like lists of three.

However, one that’s becoming increasingly problematic is my tendency to only go out of my way to review games I’ve cared about before their release.

Are you a professionally paid critic or independently wealthy? No? Then don’t worry about it.

I say this is becoming more of an issue because in the years 2010 and 2011, the games I was itching to play were everywhere. Just about every month I’d be willing to splash out an absurd amount of money on games due to excitement or the wild abandon of fanboyism, but if I look at the Wikipedia article now for 2012 in Video Gaming, I can virtually see the tumbleweeds.

You and I have very different tastes and evaluations when it comes to video games. I consider 2011 and huge dry spot when it comes to great video games. Even the first half of 2012 has already outdone it. 2010 is more of an iffy year to evaluated, but I’d still say it’s content was a little mediocre in the grand scheme of gaming. Still these are personal opinions.

The back end of 2012, and what we’ve been told of the release schedule of 2013 is like the dying embers of a totally rockin’ party – the DJ still has Dancing in the Moonlight and a couple of ABBA tracks to play, but safe to say the evening has peaked.

I’d argue the back end of so many previous years have been too overstuffed with shiny, highly polished spectacle with a lack of staying power and substance that it drowned out best of contenders like Driver: San Francisco. Look at 2008 or 2009′s or hell even the release schedule of last year. Developers and publishers were tripping over one another to eat up each other sales to make sure no one made their money back. At the end of October in 2008 they released over half a dozen triple A titles that are still talked about. Critics were afraid for their sanity and sleep on how they would get though them all. Now they scale back to reasonable levels so as not to eat one another’s lunch and this is a problem? Granted the reprieve is due to the fact that several of them got pushed back to Q1 2013.

(Entire next paragraph.)

Yep.

Ok, I’ve been pretty facetious up until now, but now we’re getting into the real meat of it.

A lot of people put this down to how the market’s changed, where originality has been swapped for anything that’ll grab the dudebro casual demographic. ‘Perhaps’, I say to that. However, I’d be more willing to attribute it to the fact that we don’t have a platform for real, imaginative developing now.

I can personally introduce you to developers that not just say otherwise, but put their livelihoods where their mouths are. Intertwined with that fast is that the current platforms are perfectly fine for “real, imaginative develop(ment)” it’s just no one wants to use them that way. They want to push the fidelity rather than the design to the limit, pushing things no normal human being will ever notice and look like ass on low scale HD TVs like mine. Journey came out this year. Binary Domain came out this year. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning came out this year. Mass Effect 3, I Am Alive, The Walking Dead, Fez all came out this year. You’ll notice I’ve stuck with the consoles and haven’t touched PC releases yet. You want to know where the innovations and imagination is, it’s on the computer. All those titles I mentioned plus Crusader King II, Diablo 3, The Legend of Grimrock all on the PC exclusively. (And Mac yes.) And those are just the high profile titles that got attention; I haven’t even mentioned the indies or “art games.”

The Xbox 360/PS3′s generation has been the longest console generation of all time

The original Playstation came out in 1994 and wasn’t replaced by the PS2 until 2000 and didn’t stop production or support for another few years. PS2 launched in 2000 and was replaced in 2006 by the PS3 and it continued production and support until…they haven’t stopped making, delivering or supporting developers on the PS2 yet. They’re still doing it. But lets say major market focus. PS1 – 6 years ’94-’00, PS2 – 6 years ’00-’06 – ’06 years, PS3 – ’06-’12 – 6 years. The Atari 2600 launched in ’77 and was discontinued in ’92. Not really fair, but even stopping at the great crash of ’83 gives us 6 years. The NES got 10 years in North America and 20 in Japan. The original Xbox got a full 6 years of support as well from ’01-’07.

Now the real issue with the six years is that by the end of it we at least had official confirmation of the next console’s existence. I will grant you that, but does it really matter? The consoles we have are more powerful to the point that no one really cares how much better the developers can make a game look. We’ve hit that point of, as CLINT HOCKING name it, “who gives a fuck?” The reality is too much time spent on the looks and not enough on the substance and it has had an effect, a sizable negative one. Luckily I don’t have to detail it. Emily Rogers already did. Another reason I like waiting on doing these.

it’s exhausted, and it shows.

See above comment.

But we’ve been at this point for a while, and we’ve pushed the limits as far as they can go with this technology. We’ve seen how good console graphics can be with Crysis 2, we’ve seen what huge-scale warfare can be like with MAG, we’ve seen how stupid and pointless motion capture devices are.

I notice these are all tech-based assertions as opposed to design based ones. Want to know what one of the dynamically deepest games of all time is Ultima VII from 1992. It blows what Skyrim can do out of the water. The sad fact is that doesn’t sell. Spectacle sells and that cost huge amounts of money that doesn’t add much to the game in most cases.

Nothing to me makes this clearer than seeing how people talk about games now. We’re not amazed by anything any more, as games with budgets tenfold the size of a decade ago, and twice the number of writers and developers, being discarded as ‘predictable’, ‘repetitive’ and ‘derivative’.

Probably because most games deserve to be talked about like that, most games aren’t amazing or impressive. And those that are don’t get bought or played. *cough* Driver: San Francisco *cough* I understand what you want. You want the hype train to sweep you away, but listen like a good joke it isn’t as good told the second time. Offer the same thing over and over and while it may be technically better, it wont be near as impressive because we’ve seen it already. We’ve experienced it before.

Worlds have become so beautifully brought to life and gameplay is now so vast and varied that we’ve hit a barrier – this is the standard. Reviews, finding it impossible to mark down the now-expected dizzyingly high standard of development, have seen their scores fly into inflation, with 8 or 9 out of 10 now meaning ‘good’ and ‘very good’, respectively.

Yeah. I’ve said my piece on review scores and it comes down to the maturing of the professional critics. Working code should not automatically start you at a 7. But this isn’t a console or hardware issue. This is an issue of our critics not having a developed sense of scale or basic arithmetic skills. Valid issue, wrong target.

Seemingly out of sheer boredom for what a ‘game’ is all about, half of what’s written online about video games now is politics

Good. 1 – all art is political. 2 – that means as writers we are growing up to demand more and put the work into it so that effort on the part of the developers is rewarded. This is not something to be condemned, but to be celebrated. This is what criticism is. Not just an evaluation of the work, but deep analysis and placing it in context.

be it the absurd demanding of an ending to Mass Effect 3 that matched the rest of the series’ glorious writing quality

Agreed. The criticism was fair, the outrage and demands were not.

or the claim that Tomb Raider was enabling rape culture due to a three-second glimpse of a man touching Lara’s waist.

And welcome ladies and gentlemen to the part that pissed me off. This was the insulting part in case anyone was wondering. I’m not going to go into detail about rape culture and it’s effects and how it’s perpetuated. Or how rape is not about intercourse. I have neither the time nor ability to do so. Instead I’m going to stick to what I’m good at, basic, easily verifiable facts based on reality. The claim was not invented by the press or the critics or the turbofeminists (That’s the term were supposed to use nowadays, right?). It came from Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg of Crystal Dynamics. We hadn’t even seen the trailer yet and wouldn’t for almost a day.

According to the interview: “In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft will suffer. Her best friend will be kidnapped. She’ll get taken prisoner by island scavengers. And then, Rosenberg says, those scavengers will try to rape her.”

Rape was not a word on anyone’s mind as a thing that would happen in the game until the developer said it. And the thing is, while it may have been the hallmark of what was happening, it wasn’t the only thing he said that pissed people off. “She’s definitely the hero but- you’re kind of like her helper,” he said. “When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.” This is a self-perpetuating myth about what media people can and should watch. All of this should and was called out for the insulting bullshit that it was. And the result, Crystal Dynamics is doing some of the fastest and worst back peddling and damage control I’ve ever seen. But god bless them they are trying.

To present this as the fault of the people hurt by this and the people insulted by this is itself an injustice. It denies both reality and a basic concept of decency. Whether or not it was intentioned it is an attempt to rewrite history for its own ends. Maybe we’re writing about these things because it’s about fucking time we did. Maybe it’s time we cleaned up our house now that we are no longer under threat of government censorship (in the US anyway). Now that the parasites have gone, we have to take stock and realize while their methods were wrong, they had a point about content. Step one for things getting better is to realize the problem. We cannot slide back into ignorance with flippant statements like this.

We’re near the end. Let’s get this over with.

Instead of wanting better video games, or perhaps accepting that we’re not getting them, we’ve turned our attention to getting our games to ‘mean something’ in our social conscience, and expecting them to fill a gap in our lives that they never were expected to in the past.

Confirmation bias. They always did mean something. We were either too young, too stupid or not versed in the language of games to piece meal them out. It’s not us forcing it into games; we’ve just started paying attention.

Also, you want reviewers to use the scoring scale correctly and game not have to means something. You realize deeper meaning roughly equates to a better game for many critics, right?

I’m certainly not saying games can’t have a deeper meaning for us.

I’m glad you clarified, because it sounded like you did, because you know, actually exploring and writing about that deeper meaning is something that usually goes along with it. Like a sudden drop in quality with a game’s ending or sexual politics with gaming female icon.

But it shouldn’t be an expectation for any game to make some kind of statement, and this effect should only come through truly great, original development.

Fact: Star Wars was one of the most derivative movies of all time. Fact: Star Wars is one of the greatest films of all time. Originality means little in the face of execution.

A couple of months ago, I discovered Minecraft, and there I have sheltered myself from the onslaught of games I feel nothing but apathy for.

As have a few others.

As if to drive the point home, Minecraft does not require any of the advancements in development technology to be brilliant, it relies only on pure, wonderful creativity. We need a new platform for creativity, a new generation. This one is old and dead.

Read that passage again if you don’t understand my use of that image.

Minecraft is brilliant. Yes “It is pure, wonderful and creative.” Yes. “It didn’t require any advancements or new technology. Yes. We need a new generation of consoles.

I almost didn’t have to write this takedown based on that alone. You’re whole thesis died right there. But in the end there wasn’t a whole lot holding that thesis together in the first place. All of your complaints are either misdirected or something not worthy of your ire. Yes, I see the rant tag at the bottom, but remember I didn’t want to do this at all. It really wasn’t worth it. There are new consoles. The iOS, Andoird, Windows 8(?), Facebook, Browser based these are the future of a lot of developers. You want your new platform? There they are. It may not look like how you wanted, but then be careful what you wish for.

And to the commenters who were saying that we were missing the point by focusing on economic issues. That is the freaking point. That is the source the lack of imagination and creativity. New hardware will not fix it, especially if budgets keep spinning out of control. No one will take advantage of the fresh slate with budgets north of 30 million dollars. Developers need the large base of potential customers to survive and many haven’t and wont in the coming months and years. It doesn’t matter what the author said if he himself is ill informed.

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