I've been playing games for almost 25 years now. While I might not have been alive at their birth, I think I've seen enough of the growth of the medium/technology/art form to be able to have a decent picture of what's happened. While some changes have been mind-boggling (we're finally on the verge of true real-time Toy Story, it's only taken about ten years longer than we thought) there are a few that have, frankly, irked me.
The biggest evolution, for the most part, is how complex games have become. These leaps and bounds have become a double-edged sword. Sure, we get things like "plot" and, if it's done really well, "character development." But, on top of that, we also want to do absolutely everything we could imagine doing within a game's environment. As such, our controller has morphed—to use a Kojima-style metaphor—from a table with two chairs to a lush banquet hall, replete with different food stations, a martini bar and even that cool Greek cheese that gets lit on fire when it's brought to your table. In short, we're living in a gaming world of excess.
Look at our utensils. We used to live with a plate, a knife and a fork (D-pad, A and B). Now we have the original dinner plate (D-pad), bread and salad plates (analog sticks) butter knife, teaspoon, knife and fork (A,B,X,Y or various geometry) and a wide variety of glasses for our beverages (shoulder buttons galore). The point of this long-winded gastronomic comparison is this: Are we eating to survive, or eating to live? And at what point is enough, enough?
Ask anyone who isn't a gourmand, and they'll likely tell you that they're completely happy eating pre-fab soup and burgers for their whole lives. Even as a gourmand, don't you have a hankering for a plain old, big and fat burger every now and again? The problem is the expectations of our industry are such that, with very few exceptions, we need to have some sort of new fusion cuisine at each and every dining experience.
Crazy as Kojima might have been, he was on the right track. If you peruse my reviews, you'll notice that most of my reviews are on portable systems. My Gamerscore is really low, in spite of having a ton of "Games Played." To kill the overused metaphor, I'm full.
I finally finished playing Dead Rising for the Xbox 360, but only to beat it before my wife. It was the first console game I've played to completion in a long time. Even with many hours of gameplay under my belt, I still had to look down at my control pad to look at my in-game watch. A D-pad isn't for moving a player around anymore, it's a menu-selection system. I'm only now finally getting used to having to use two sticks to move my character around (I still maintain that two-stick locomotion was developed so reviewers couldn't lambaste lazy developers for bad camera systems). In the game, I can do almost everything at any given time: I can take a photo, shoot a gun, pull off a myriad of special moves by CLICKING IN THE THUMBSTICK (good lord, two more buttons) in conjunction with other face buttons, scroll my inventory in real time, access a map, jump, call for people, aim…
And all this with two thumbs and two fingers. Am I the only who thinks this is borderline nuts?
Don't get me wrong, I think there's a definite place for a game as complex as this, and obviously there is a demand for it. But what's wrong with running, jumping and one action? Does every game need this level of depth in its interaction? I look at a game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and while there are some complexities to the game (such as morphs mapped to shoulder buttons—I kept turning into the damned wolf when I wanted the bat) the overall mechanics of the game are simple. It's a case of good design trumping complexity. Maybe all this complexity is just a cover-up for bad design.
But in the meantime, I'm not "eating" as much as I used to. Am I getting sick of food, or is everything too froo-froo for me right now? I feel like sometimes I've been left behind as games have changed. My portables are filling in this gap nicely, and Xbox Live Arcade and even the Wii will hopefully sate my desire for simpler games. I'm pretty sure the PLAYSTATION 3 will follow suit.
I hope that I'll know which fork to use by then.