Pushing Buttons: Should games be a never-ending story? | Game
RReading our games correspondent Keith Stuart’s article on the joy of game compilations, I was struck by the fact that playing five games in a weekend had become almost unthinkable. My friends growing up in the 1980s consumed as many games on tape as they could, but by the 90s we had slowed down. The games were more sophisticated, they had more to offer, and it took the whole weekend (or sometimes the week) to get the most out of the cartridge you borrowed from Blockbuster or spent months of spending money on. buy it.
Things started to change in the 2000s: games weren’t 10 or 20 hours long, but 50 or more. There have always been long games – think Japanese RPGs, which stole many hours of my teenage life through random battles and grinding, or PC strategy games which could swallow so many hours you give them, or Championship Manager and Football Manager – but historic open-world games like Grand Theft Auto and The Elder Scrolls started to make huge games the norm. And of course, World of Warcraft, EverQuest, and Guild Wars also popped up, sparking an online gaming boom that just… never ended.
For a while, these endless games were confined to PCs, and they were niche. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games were a trend in the mid-2000s, as mobile was in the 2000s and virtual reality was until recently: they sucked all the money from investors in games and rarely produced interesting results. There have been many high profile flops in the endless games genre: The Matrix Online, Tabula Rasa (directed by Richard Garriott, the mind behind the online game OG Ultima Online), The Sims Online, Age of Conan and even Star Wars Galaxies.
The MMO genre may not have been the future of gaming, but elements of this kind are ubiquitous. I now earn loot and experience points in blimmin’ Forza Horizon, a game about driving shiny cars in the sun. An Assassin’s Creed game will now last 200 hours and will be bolstered by seasons of additional content to keep you playing even longer; Grand Theft Auto Online has turned an already long game into one you can play forever. Shooters have become endless times – Destiny, Fortnite and Call of Duty expect you to play for years, not just through a campaign and play to death with friends for a while. MMOs never became the mainstream genre, but they did influence the mainstream.
I don’t feel good about a trajectory that has led to playing many different things from different developers, cultures, and genres playing one thing for years. It mirrors the entertainment monoculture we see everywhere else, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to endless Star Wars expansions and episodes of Stranger Things that are longer than most movies. Pop culture seems to give people something they love and then give them endless content related to that thing. Why risk creating something new when you can do another iteration of Spider-Man? Why invest millions in a fun new developer idea when you could just get people to play Fifa forever? In gaming, as elsewhere, it creates a culture of entertainment that is a wide, shallow pool – a successful thing needs to be stretched and developed until everyone is fed up.
I’d like to see a modern take on the old compilation tapes that were the formative gaming regimen of a previous generation. Playdate, the boutique game console that releases different seasons of entertaining esoteric games every week, captures that vibe for me. Or imagine a publisher that puts together small collections of hour-long games by different developers, all on one theme: grief, love, the climate crisis. I’d love to play multiple games in a weekend again, rather than glumly stare at an Xbox or PlayStation storefront full of live games that require as much commitment as a wedding. Teenagers consider this to be normal, and to them I’m the definition of “old man shout cloud” – but I truly believe that everyone benefits from a broader gaming regimen.
what to play
I’m an absolute sucker for any game, novel, or TV series that changes genre, theme, or setting every few hours, or features multiple interconnected stories. My teenage mind was blown away by David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten and I’ve been craving that flavor of fiction ever since. Thus, the long-delayed worldwide release of live alive, a Japanese RPG that takes you through the totally different stories of seven characters set across human history, made me very happy. First released in 1994 and directed by Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV mastermind Takashi Tokita, it’s an artifact of a more adventurous and creative era in Japanese game development – unpredictable, weird, and a bit crude.
Available on: nintendo switch
Approximate playing time: 20-25 hours
What to read
Fifa’s next game – which, it will be recalled, will officially be the last in EA’s series – will feature women’s club football for the first time, having included (some) women’s international teams since 2015. 2K’s inclusion of WNBA teams in its basketball games represents a big step forward for the representation of women’s sports in the virtual realm. Me, 11 years old, I would have been delighted.
The superlative Papers, Please, a game about being a border control officer in a fictional Eastern Bloc country that reveals an uncomfortable amount of who plays it, is coming to mobile next month. It’s still extremely relevant. I will take every opportunity to revisit this Tweet in NYU game developer and lecturer Robert Yangtoo:
The Stray Cat Game has taken off. It’s nice because it’s an inventive and creative game that deserves success, and because people keep posting videos of their cats react to the gameand these videos bring me to life.
With apologies to anyone who thinks I’m featuring too much Lego in this section: the Atari 2600 Lego set was released on August 1, featuring a pop-up portrait of an 80s living room and dioramas of classic games from ‘Atari.
I made a radio documentary about video games called Generation Games: From Pong to Pokémon. It’s about how games have changed our lives over the past 50 years, and it’ll be on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm BST this Saturday (July 30).
What to click
How to save money when buying video games and consoles
When life gives you lemons, video games can be the escape we need, writes Dominik Diamond
Minecraft developers won’t allow NFTs on the gaming platform
101 ways the arts can slightly improve your life
Block of questions
This week’s question comes from the reader Adam: I recently played Assemble With Care and am enjoying it bring broken things back to life. Can you recommend other games that is it to repair, renovate or repair?
What a great question. I also like Assemble with care – a game about dismantling objects and exploring their emotional history as well. There should be more games about restoration than destruction, right? I immediately thought of PowerWashing Simulator, a game in which you methodically remove dirt from dirty things, as it seems to have unexpectedly won over a number of my friends. In GNOG, you satisfactorily play with sleek machines and robots until they perform as intended. There are jew’s harp, a game about trying to get from East Berlin to Turkey in a horrible old car that keeps breaking down, requiring you to fix it. But none of that fit the bill, right? There are many games about organization things, but not specifically to fix them. I’m going to throw this one out to the readers: can you recommend any games on repair?