Throughout the past 10 or so years, I have seen a trend: game developers are aiming more and more to create "cinematic" experiences. They have done this through huge setpieces, more elaborate storytelling, and an increase in cutscenes/dialogue. They've made efforts (and to an extent, succeeded) to create characters that we know, love, and care about. They've created situations and pulled emotions from us by making us relate to the characters onscreen. The developers are trying to create worlds and situations that seem human.
On paper, this sounds great. Why not make more games more emotional and immersive? Why not make gamers care about the thing they are doing as they do it? Why not try to integrate storytelling and maturity into an entertainment genre that has been mocked many times by the outside world for being ridiculous and unnecessary?
The reason, as I see it, is this: We are substituting story and cinematic value for gameplay.
Let me start by analyzing Mass Effect, one of the most highly praised video game series of this generation.
Note: I'm not saying that Mass Effect or any other game that pushes cinematics (Uncharted) is bad, I'm just saying that I don't enjoy the trend that the industry is following.
I like Mass Effect. I really do. Heck, I've spent a good 60 or 70 hours in the second and third game, and have enjoyed most of it. The games have forced me to make choices that I would have never thought I would have to make, love characters in a way that is unknown in video games, and nearly brought me to tears on many occasions. They have one of the best overlying stories ever presented in a game.
But the actual shooting sequences have always felt shoehorned in. The shooting sequences. The part of the game that makes Mass Effect a game, not a movie, are only mediocre. And yet, the games score great universally, despite having somewhat lacking gameplay. Why?
Here's why: innovation. Critics and gamers love to see where games can go, but hardly think about where they don't need to go. We are becoming more and more worried about a game being a movie or a book than a game being a game. Why? Don't we already have movies and books to tell us great stories? Why do games need to be that as well?
One could argue that stories are more entertaining if the player is interacting. Perhaps this is why games like Uncharted (which, let's be honest, has about as good a story as a straight to DVD movie. Better characters perhaps, but not a better story) are so widely loved. Being and interacting with such great characters feels real, and gamers feel more immersed. Gamers feel like they live in that world.
And there is nothing wrong with that argument. I do agree that it is more immersive to play a game like Uncharted than to watch a movie like Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones, even though the story may not be as fantastic. I see the appeal.
But I guess it just isn't for me. I can play those games and enjoy them thoroughly, but I'd rather be playing Super Stardust, Darksiders, or Dark Souls than some ultra story/cinematic heavy experience. I'd rather be playing games for what they were made for (fun) than for tear jerking and other emotional reactions. I'd rather come to love characters by spending lots of time controlling them than by hearing them give witty dialogue. I'd rather see an insane explosion of rainbows on the moon than fall out of a crashing plane on a crate of freight.
I'm almost surprised that I feel this way, seeing as I'm only 13 years old, and am growing up through a generation of gamers that loves to see exactly what I'm advocating against.
So, back to the original topic of this article: Tokyo Jungle. Tokyo Jungle looks like a *** insane game. It looks like a bunch of Japanese mental hospital residents sat down to make a game, and this is what they thought of. It looks like a game that is more focused (if not purely focused) on gameplay, and very little on story. It looks like a great example of why games were created in the first place.
And, more importantly, it has *** dinosaurs, and dinosaurs are awesome.