Monday, 15 August 2011

Evolve of Die? - The Case for Not Fixing what Isn’t Broken, but Still Improving it

While browsing tvtropes recently I came across a thread that had sparked some debate. It was centered around this ign article.

There were cries of ignorance on the part of the respondents, that you shouldn’t mess with a good thing, and that sometimes genres of games - specifically platformers in this case - have progressed to the point of not really needing to change to be good.

Don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said about fixing something that doesn’t need it. Platformers, specifically 2D ones, are a genre that has been around for almost as long as there have been games. Even today when you play the most recent Kirby or Mario games on the handheld systems you aren’t really seeing a whole lot that hasn’t been honed from decades of trial and error. And, as long as the games are fun, it shouldn’t matter, right?

Well, no; that’s not really true at all. A tried and true formula is nice, but it will only take you so far without innovation and improvement.

Take the latest Kirby game for example: Kirby Mass Attack. Sure, it’s certainly a Kirby game, through and through, but this time instead of controlling one Kirby, you get up to 10 of the little pink blobs to navigate through levels. It’s not a huge risk that Nintendo is taking with the franchise from the looks of it, but it’s enough to keep people interested, to keep them coming back.

Let’s face it, even the guy who’s the life of the party eventually stops getting invited if he keeps telling the same stories every time.

This is an era where, as I’ve mentioned before, that if a person believes that they can do better, then with a little time effort and ingenuity, they actually can do better. Games like ‘Spolsion Man, Braid, and any number of titles that can easily be found in the Xbox, PS3, and Steam online marketplaces vie for your attention against the established classics. But when they all have to compete, then in the best outcome everyone wins: games increase in quality, decrease in price (to a reasonable degree) and become more diversified thanks to the free market fostering such practices.

Some people accuse certain games or genres of getting stagnant, I know that the ign article mentions a slew of games that simply aren’t worth your money. But I ask: who is to blame for that? The genre itself, or those that would push out shoddy shovelware for the sake of a quick dollar? As the audience our money speaks more volumes than our words likely ever will. If we stop buying crappy games then eventually they will stop appearing, believe it or not. And frankly in an era where more people play than ever and understand what makes a game good or bad, I’m not going to accept the whole “Well my parents/grandparents/second uncle Frank got me this and it’s shitty but I have to keep it”. There’s a reason why receipts exist and why trade-ins are allowed after big ticket holidays.

These franchises haven’t remain unchanged, they’ve just stayed true to what made them popular in the first place. That isn’t a crime, it’s just being smart.

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