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.
“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.
- “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.
- 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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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