As gamers we all have an opinion on the games we play (and indeed opinions of the games that we do not play). in fact, most people will have formed an opinion of games that they have only seen a teaser trailer for and might not be released for months.
“I’m not going to be buy the latest Call of Duty because it is set in WWII.”
But why do we form these opinions of games so early? Why do we take these opinions so seriously? Publishers rightly have the backing of massive marketing and PR divisions. They push huge amounts of money into marketing and, according to Mike Capps back in 2007, speaking as President of Epic Games about the success of the first Gears Of War, it is vital to making a great game realize its potential. “It doesn’t do you any good at all to write the best novel and then put in a closet at home where no one ever sees it. It’s so unfortunate that I can list 20 games that were fantastic games that nobody ever heard of, nobody ever saw.”
It could be that it is these marketing messages vying for our attention, desperately pleading for us to consider them, that leads us by the hand to making quick judgments on games even when we haven’t played them.
But what do we, the gaming community really want? If the marketing departments were to suddenly go holiday together we would be deafened by the silence, forced to consider games on their merits… on how they play. All of a sudden, an incredible thing would happen, we would realize what it is that we really want to be playing.
Something that would be pretty high up on a lot of people’s wish-list would be more interactive environments, where real-world physics were implemented across the board, not just when and where it suits “the gameplay.” Who doesn’t want properly destructible buildings and terrain that is scarred and reshaped by a raging battle?
Not just in some games, but all games. To be able to pick up anything, to use that object both for its intended use and as my imagination sees fit. To interact with the other people in this environment properly and meaningfully.
No consumer industry can live without listening to the customer and obviously the gaming industry falls under the influence of this rule like any other. Indeed we have seen much sort after new features being implemented properly as the technology of gaming has advanced. Just look at the living cities of Grand Theft Auto, the effects of fire in Far Cry 2 and the destruction in Battlefield Bad Company to name a few.
Does the gaming industry give us what they think we want? Do they dictact what we think we want? Or do we not even know what we want?
So… what do we want?
Do we want more people in a multiplayer game at once? Do we want bigger and more outrageous weaponry? Who wants futuristic hyper-speed racing, or do we want ultra realistic simulations of modern day vehicles on meticulously recreated real-life race tracks? How many amongst us want set-piece cinematics in preference to open ended sand box gameplay? Are we crying out for another super hero? Are we bored of the “healthy gaming” phenomena?
Where do we start? Well, one thing that has not really been done, and might prove to be an interesting start point could be building upon the realistic reactions to being shot. Way back in 2000 enemy soldiers in Perfect Dark would limp away trailing blood when shot in the leg, hold their arm when winged and surrender when having their weapon shot out of their grasp and plead not to be killed (sometimes even slowly shuffling away sideways when you’re not looking).
The next simple step would have been to integrate this into enemy soldiers being incapacitated and unable to fight back but not actually be dead. It would be interesting to muddy the waters of the bad guy being either dead, or alive. Might even provide interesting moral questions. Was he even a “bad guy” in the first place?
With new profiles of gamers entering the arena the answer to the question of what we want will prove to be more divers than ever. The over 40′s being brought to the industry by the Nintendo DS will have a wholly unique wish-list when compared to the Wii-fit inspired healthy gamer.
So we are waiting Mr Games Developer, waiting for you to deliver some that we want… even though we might not know what it is right now.
But what, I ask, do we want?