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Originality debates have been thrown around back and fourth all the time. We need to face it. We are in a day and age where being original in games is either unusual, or a hit or miss affair. Being original is a very risky task, and anyone that attempts it is usually met with failure, despite praises to the contrary. We enjoy more of the same no matter how many times we demand originality: we always go back to more of the same.

Most game concepts, ideas, and plots, are all used at one point or another. While yes, the game may be different and neat; it is rarely original. Looking at a newer game like Left4dead. Is it a nice change of pace from zombie games? Sure.

Is it original? No.

johnnyabsolut

“But Gabe!…it has an original concept of how the game plays cooperatively! How can you say it isn’t original!” Zombies. Zombies in games are not original. In fact there are games with zombies that have nothing to do with zombies (Another recent example is Call of Duty: World at War).

There is not doubt that certain games have original mechanics deep inside that ‘blob of seen before’. If people weren’t so afraid of the original game concept being shot down, there may be more original ideas. The fact is always proven though people like familiar things. That entire concept creates a barrier that is hard to get through.

Imagine, if you will, a wall that splitting a city into two camps. Each side can get to the other but it just takes time, patience, and hard work. Each side talks about going to the other side, but is far too afraid to do so: once you go over there may be no turning back. This, tied with lack of knowing what the other side holds, leads to a tough choice. Meaning most people will stick with the old.

For example: Let us make a brief  list or two of some of the more overused themes, plots, settings, etc.

MMO’s:

  1. “Dungeons and Dragons” or the Medieval period: This is the most common used setting. As much as I enjoy swinging the same swords or casting magic spells at helpless animals early in game it gets old. This brings to my original point, we do not like change. Therefore this is what we have in most MMOs.
  2. Future/Space: This is used less than the previous setting, but it still used more than it should be. It’s rarely done well in my opinion. This concept has also been recently picking up speed in games like Eve Online, and appears to be getting better.

General Plot Devices:

  1. End of the World: Let’s be honest. This is by far the easiest plot to go off of. Get a protaganist(s), make an antagonist(s) whose goal is to (literally or not) destroy the world. Hero saves world, or leaves it open for a sequel. (Usually he doesn’t save “all the world”, just enough to warrant a sequel).
  2. World War II: Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy shooting German Nazis as much as the next stereotypical American (Ha) but you need to draw a line somewhere. By this point it’s impossible to be original with this. Unless of course you completely changed World war II around so it was actually the French against Egypt and they fought each other using paper airplanes and candy canes, while riding on mutated gorillas with laser fingers. Now that my friends is an original concept. Sort of.
  3. Secret Organization: You know what I’m talking about! The super secret organization that walks around in black suits and sunglasses and makes sure you don’t ruin their evil plan. Why does it always have to be a secret organization? At least make it something public everyone knows about. We could have BurgerKing hire mercenaries to destroy each McDonalds one by one. I’d buy it.
  4. Aliens: I don’t think anything needs to be said about this one to be perfectly honest. Alien Invasion happens, steroid abusers in large bulky armor using unusual weapons stops the invasion (Or altered humans by use of genetics or otherwise). Aliens lose. Humans win. Game over.

In no way am I saying games can’t and won’t be original. Psychonauts was a fine example of this to an extent.

What I’m getting at through this babble is a simple question: Can you truly think of an original concept? An original game story, or a theme?

A game where a giant purple/blue polka dotted robot has to break into a factory with nothing other than a frilly white dress, and the overall outcome is to get a prize that they did not receive from a cereal box is original. Silly, yes, but all the developer would have to do is make it fun. Although when we are so used to games about big tough men, in high tech armor, beating up on aliens, then spending the rest of the day grunting;we need a change.

One final question: What would be your original game? I don’t care how silly it is. Original is original, and this is what we need from developers. Obviously there is no possible way to be completely original 100% anymore. But you can try.

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  1. A cookie to Chris for editing this and actually making it sound better. Listening to music and writing is a double edged sword for me.

  2. Great article Gabe, you’re a good man and bring an interesting read. Keep it going.

  3. Great read man! I can’t begin to explain how fed-up I am with Gears-esque storylines.

  4. Originality vs. Sales vs. What’s fun to play. It’s an eternal battle between publishers and developers.

    You can make a game that’s original and fun to play a la Psychonauts, but then have it sell peanuts at stores.

    Games like Portal are one in a million.

    Personally, I just need my games to be fun to play. If they can do that, everything else is a cherry on top.

  5. avatar Chase C.

    Great Article!

    I agree that there is a severe lack of originality on our store shelves. Each one is a copy of a copy of a copy.

    However, gems like De Blob, LittleBigPlanet, and PuzzleQuest continue to give me hope that developers and publishers realize, like we do, that there is an awful lot of grey out there.

  6. Very nice read. I will argue that the special infected of Left 4 Dead are incredibly original, even if the rest of the game is borrowed from classic zombie movies.

    I agree though… you could toss Killzone 2, Gears of War, and Resistance Fall of Man into a blender and it would just come out one big dark brown goop, and look like every one of the games.

    • avatar Vroni

      science, n. the intellectual and pacctiral activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. (Oxford American Dictionary)Nothing wrong with that. I’m pro-science as well.

  7. avatar Wood

    My idea is…

    Getting 2 Spartans wearing women clothes and trying to kill the nerdy fashion..Once these 2 spartans reach nerdland ..iether the console v fashion war starts and Nvidia and Radeon form an Alliance to kill the Fashion Spartas..U will recruit fashion-crazy people on d way. Your main weapons are

    Stun Grenades ” D&G Perfume ”
    Guns “Lip Stick Machine Gun etc..”
    Bombs “Bra Bomb and Panty Madness”

    example..

  8. avatar Name (Required)

    sims: adolescent

  9. avatar Nate Street

    it is not the developer’s who decide what a game is. the publisher pays for the game creation and the release.
    ever noticed how games come in groups, like girls going to the toilet in a pub?
    the publisher looks at the market and thinks “yep, FPS’s are doing well right now, lets have more of that” so the developers have to churn out yet another game with bulky steroid induced orphans blowing the entrails out of anything that moves, with guns three times the size of my head (my head is standard human head sized) while they remark comical quips about how manly they are.
    in short don’t blame the developers! blame the money hungry, yet already afluent publishers. possibly not out loud though. they may have us all terminated unless we ask for yet more FPS’s!
    also, exactly when is Sonic going to be terminated? he must, surely have worn off the soles of those red shoes by now. can a game not be made where he just doesn’t run and everyone goes home happy, to a nicely warmed bagel?

  10. avatar Chris N

    I think the problem is that everything has been done already in terms of story elements. Look at the movie industry, they keep updating classic movies because they make a bajillion dollars, but also because nobody has original ideas anymore.

    This is where indie games take a foothold. World of Goo is a great example for originality and how to make money without spending tons.

    Also, even just more innovation in gameplay can make a tired franchise fresh. Resident Evil 4 turned the old RE gameplay over and was a huge success. Then we had a bunch of clones of that gameplay, and now it is tired again. Even RE5 feels old already. But you know what, it will make money and that is how it is.

    I guess i don’t really have any suggestions to make a game fresh or any original ideas for a game, but there are flaws in all of our industries, and unfortunately we have to live with them all.

  11. Great article, but I want to know what you would do if you were making a game?

  12. avatar Zappa

    I’d like to play a 1st/3rd Shark simulator. Basically, choosing the type of shark you want to play as and having goals corresponding to the habits and typical environment that you find each shark in. Or you can say “Screw it!” and go attack some surfers.

    • avatar Adel

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  13. @Zappa

    Dude, that’s an awesome idea.

    Achievement Unlocked!
    “Eat your heart out Jaws” – Defeat Jaws, king of the sharks

    Anyone ever played EVO for the SNES?

  14. Hmmm… you know they say their are no original ideas, simply those that have not yet been published.

    Looking at MMOs, I’d quite enjoy a few set in a time period other than the two you mentioned. Granado Espada proved that the Age of Colonization, even with its obsessively frilly attire, can be moderately entertaining. I’d love to see someone go for a truly ancient setting. Leave oriental, greco-roman, and medieval mythology aside. Let’s see some African settings. I’d love to be the pharaoh to rule them all, or the direct descendant of Shaka Zulu.

    I am Ozymandias
    King of Kings!
    Behold my works ye mighty, and despair!

    As far as video games in general are concerned. I’d love to see something along the lines of domestic revolution. Think Aeonflux, I feel that be a rather interesting subtext to a plot.

  15. A WWII game- NOW HEAR ME OUT HERE!!! Where you play as a rat in Germany, you heard me, and as this rat you infiltrate Nazi bases where you sabotage Nazi equipment and vehicles. You could also collect intel like when and where a certain shipment would leave and as a result you’d be able to stowaway in a Truck/Boat/Train until you get to one of many concentration camps. Once there, am I offending anyone yet?, you’d have to help the Jews escape safely. All along the way you’ll confront angry/drunk Nazis, cats, owls, and other threats I can’t think of right now. Anyone thinks this is a great idea? Sounds so good to me, I can’t believe I thought of this.
    -Ferahtsu

  16. So a game based roughly on the book Maus? Sounds mighty familiar…

  17. Oh yeah, Mauz was damn good. But no, I mean a real rat that goes through holes in walls, vents, pipes, stuff like that. I do NOT mean rat humanoids nor cat humanoids.

  18. avatar Chris Carter

    Haha nice idea! That sounds like what Deadly Creatures for the Wii is kind of doing, as well.

    • avatar Marc

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  19. avatar WhatTheBuck

    hehehehe i like it

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