Sometimes I wonder how gaming has evolved into what it is today. There is so much that is wrong with it. I guess we have much to be thankful for, so it’s hard to complain about some of the glaring flaws that hold back the industry we love. Surely our 1080p, high frame rate experiences count for something. The medium has certainly progressed in a technological sense. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t much left to ask of the gaming giants, both when it comes to hardware and software progress. While I love the industry, I have more than a few qualms with games and what has been seemingly accepted as modern gaming culture. Because I won’t accept overlooking these issues, here is my ungrateful list of things I hate about the current generation in gaming:
1. Open-world Saturation
People like levelling up their characters, balancing and rebalancing statistics, modifying weaponry, purchasing and selling upgrades, and travelling through wide, open landscapes. I get it. Having full control over how you play a game or how you decide to accomplish missions is a good thing. Just please stop implementing these systems in each and every triple A title.
When Quantum Break released just a little while back, I was thrilled at the thought of finally being able to play a game that doesn’t let me off the leash. Not every game should be solely story focused, but when done well, a game with an intriguing plot and some damn-tight controls is my preferred flavour of gaming.
I totally get the excitement of having control over your character and equipping him or her with the best arsenal of weaponry to suit your needs–it makes you feel like the character is your own. The problem is that I often feel like a hamster spinning on a wheel for endless hours just to boost my stats. I hate when games feel like chores, and most of the mission varieties in the latest games, like Far Cry Primal and The Division, include repeats of the same cyclical gameplay. And there is not much plot that unfolds past the opening scenes for many of these open world titles. You are forced to go far out of your way to collect the little tidbits of disjointed story scattered throughout the game world.
2. Multiplayer Only
Please stop with this multiplayer-only approach. It completely removes the primary reason many folks purchase games. I still remember the days when multiplayer modes were just that–they were often seen as additions to the meaty single-player storylines. The game was the single-player experience, and the multiplayer was something you’d enjoy with a group of friends after the so-called main game burned you out.
Now hold on, I’m not saying that this is the right approach to modern gaming, nor am I saying that it was right balance of modes for the time. Multiplayer gaming, especially with the advent of superior online capabilities, has truly come into its own. We often don’t think of competitive gaming as an afterthought anymore, but I sure am starting to think that single-player campaigns are taking a backseat. Perhaps we should reflect on the importance of the single-player campaign and look to the past for inspiration.
Just as we’ve recognized the importance of spending the due resources on creating multiplayer experiences, dedicated single player modes should be included with games. Luckily our prayers are beginning to be heard– the sequel to Titanfall will be released with a campaign mode to appropriately explore the backstory of the mechanized universe. Unluckily we are still fed games that claim to be fun for solo players, though they are mostly marketed for and best enjoyed by those who play in groups–games like Destiny for example.
3. Wii U Gamepad
The Wii U Gamepad: once confused for being the actual console, touted as a way to interact with games in an original and exciting manner, and a method for playing entire games on your own screen while your girlfriend watches television. Unfortunately the Gamepad ended up being the companion to an underpowered console and nothing more than an overlooked map/inventory screen. I guess I have to complement it on being a useful device when it comes to playing games off-screen. However, I still don’t have a girlfriend. Thanks Nintendo.
On the bright side, some of the first party titles on the Wii U are fantastic. It’s just unfortunate that the controller is lacking in quality. It is too big to fit comfortably in my hands for extended periods of time, and the battery life often prevents me from playing for long anyway. The concept of the controller is quite a good idea, but some omissions–a higher quality screen, a multi-touch screen, and analog triggers–make it hard to believe that such a lacking device would be paired with a console during this generation.
What’s even more offensive is the poor use of the untraditional controller. Only a few games, like the Boost mode offered by New Super Mario Bros. Wii U and the stage creation modes offered by Super Mario Maker, actually use the tech in a way that is both unique and relevant. Hopefully whatever plans Nintendo has for the NX will build on these positive features afforded by their current controller. For now, the Wii U Gamepad is part outdated, part underutilized, and part underwhelming in innovation.
4. Day One Patches and Updates
I love that we can game in an age where it is possible to squash game-breaking bugs or tweak games for better performance. What disappoints me is having to constantly update games, especially when purchasing them on launch day. The ultimate first-world problem? I guess. But the point is that I paid full price as a fan of the series, as opposed to the many who wait for a price drop, and have to sit around for some time as my half-baked game finishes cooking.
Some games have some extraordinarily large day one patches that make you wonder just how broken it would be without them. Patches and updates for small issues here and there–or larger ones that turn up over the course of the game’s life–are a healthy way to ensure the best quality out of our games. Having to ship them broken and then remedy the issue with massive patches is not my idea of the best use of the technology.
Take Borderlands: The Handsome Collection for example (hopefully it’s the worst of the bunch). The port of the two Gearbox games had a day one patch of 16GB on Xbox One. Jack better be a real handsome dude if I’m to sit patiently as the game devours my hard drive. Realistic release dates need to be put in place by publishers so that devs aren’t stuck scrambling pre-launch and beyond. Small patches have a place in the gaming world, but they need to be used sparingly.
5. Pay Now, Find out Later
Yes Madame, I would love to pay for my $60 meal up front. You know what? I’ll do even better–not only will I pay for my meal now, but I want you to surprise me with a dish of your choosing.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Then why the heck are gamers expected to dish out coin for DLC packs before the core game is released and without any knowledge of what the additions will offer? Batman Arkham Knight was a terrible offender of this back in April 2015. About two months before the release of the game, incredibly vague details were given about the season’s pass, yet the publisher’s were willing to charge those content-hungry fans over half of the cost of the actual game.
I think this has all come out of crazed attempts to ensure that greedy business folk not only know how well their investment will perform, but give their fidgety hands a little green up front. As I see it, something like preordering once began to guarantee excited shoppers a copy of a chosen game. Today preorders don’t work like that at all.
I’ve yet to see a game that actually sold out on its launch day–and even if some did, there would always be more copies available at another nearby location or a different store. No, today, preorders are just a way to gauge how many copies of a game will sell, and that’s why carrots, like in-game bonuses, are wiggled in front of our faces. Preorders establish a rough estimate of how much money a game will make during its opening days, and while there is nothing truly heinous about that, the idea of money up front has spiralled into these ludicrous season’s passes.
Am I allowed to know what I’m buying before I pay in advance for it? Some publishers want us to eat whatever surprise they serve us. I’ll take my money elsewhere.