Thursday, 3 January 2013

THQ Head of Global Communications Calls Out Call of Duty

Them's fightin' words ... your deathmatch arena or mine?

It may not be the most entirely pertinent thing that I've ever commented on, but what I'm bringing you today certainly amused me at the very least. Aside from that, it has also caused me to wonder about whether or not the following comments have any merit, but that's getting a little ahead of myself.

THQ is becoming an increasingly difficult company to pin down as of late. Although their financial troubles have been a secret to absolutely no one, they're still out there, giving away games for free, putting out a Humble Bundle, and generally just trying to remind people that "hey, we're a company that exists and we make some products that are damn good" (again, that would be their words, open to argument as is everything on the Internet forever until the heat death of the universe and perhaps beyond).

It was in marketing one of these products, the upcoming sequel to Metro 2033 that the head of global communications Huw Beynon spoke to OXM about recent shooters, and what he had to say wasn't entirely flattering.

Beynon reckons first-person shooter fans are ready for a change of tune. "I think it's probably very true to say that there's reaction to what used to be a small subset of the genre of a military shooter," he went on, "which has ballooned and mushroom-clouded to almost define the genre, and kind of stamp out memories of what I remember being great about first person shooters, whether that was Half Life, System Shock or GoldenEye - where a first person shooter didn't necessarily have to involve military material, it just meant an invitation to a fantastic other world, which to me was always the point of video games in the first place."

It's no lie that currently games like Call of Duty and Battlefield rule the roost, and that there's a certain resentment about many aspects of both shooters. People have pointed out to the almost annual churning out of sequels that simply deliver a different campaign and slightly rebalanced and retweaked multiplayer options. The question ultimately becomes: is this what people now think of when they think of an FPS? As Beynon himself mentions, such shooters fall within a certain overall subset of the larger genre: military shooters. 

I haven't been a big fan of military shooters myself, but I can understand their appeal. The problem is with such huge numbers consistently pulled down by the top running series, there are more and more cries of "me too" added to the chorus with every passing day. The resultant deluge of games that are modern, militaristic, and often painfully straightforward in their approach. Yahtzee, erudite gentleman that he is, has taken to calling these games "spunkgargleweewee" and at times it's somewhat hard to really question his reasoning in doing so.

I don't honestly think that it's the genre itself so much as it is the lack of variation that arises from it. For example I don't agree with the further assessment that "audiences are falling out of love with the fantasy of becoming an all-conquering force of destruction." that's half the bloody point of most FPS games. No, the point is that when you're shooting guys, just guys, over and over again, in roughly the same environments, that gets old, fast. In Doom you literally fight demons from Hell, in Serious Sam you're fighting against a whole bunch of insane stuff. The list goes on.

Games like Far Cry and Dishonoured also change up things with different settings and circumstances. Basically, the player does enjoy power, just that being the same soldier guy probably just makes them wonder if they've developed a major sense of deja vu or not. Even in military shooters the worlds are still there, and the stories can be too, it's just that for the most part people don't bother. When they do bother you get things like Spec Ops: The Line (which I will be playing and reviewing at some point in the future, by the way), so it's not for lack of anything to do, it's just for lack of trying.

Whether you agree or disagree I think that topics like these should actually be brought up more often. A lot of people wonder whether the industry is getting stagnant, or at least whether certain aspects of it are. Talking about it openly like this really means that people don't have anything to lose except a little face, and perhaps some insight to gain.

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