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1. Why don't we find very many games innovative anymore?
I remember when YouTuber Jon Jafari once talked about how mainstream gaming is devolving due to lack of innovation. Jafari even considered this devolution an example of "George Lucas Syndrome" in the sense that quality gameplay, powerful storytelling, and even proper animation (plus voice acting in most modern games) are being downplayed in favour of appealing graphics and special effects.
The discussion really got me thinking about why I personally have stopped buying console games years ago. I used to religiously play Nintendo games, but the emergence of the Wii era is when I stopped investing in them altogether. Franchises like Mario and Zelda were being milked because of their formulaic attributes (with exceptions of course); they were becoming less streamlined in that there was less room for exploration, experimentation, and independent problem solving.
Heavy player guidance and modes that take away from actual gameplay, such as menus and long loading screens, were put in place of these senses of freedom and immersion in game worlds. It got to the point where I felt like I was doing chores and waiting so long for exciting things to happen in-game. Forcing yourself to get through something that’s meant to entertain you is never a good sign, and it didn’t help when I realized I was purchasing very similar games in nature.
I needed new challenges, new genres that will keep me engaged. The time came when I wanted to broaden my spectrum. Thus, I decided that I wanted to switch over to Sony, as their diverse lineup of games, particularly artistic ones like Journey, Portal, and Braid, genuinely interests me more after watching many video reviews and even giving some titles a try. I also prefer using a standard controller as opposed to motion controls.
And I think these are some of the major problems with the gaming industry nowadays. Instead of innovation, I feel that most developers are creating inconvenience, although I also equally blame consumer behaviour for this.
On the one hand, while technological advances can help to refine core game elements, the advantage of having so many resources at your disposal can also backfire when you try throwing it all in for the sake of flashiness with no real substance. That is because design and art direction are sacrificed, and players are left confused about what to do or what the game’s message and interactive environments are trying to convey.
It's just like writing school essays. If too many unnecessary details are added to the initial arguments, the audience eventually gets lost trying to figure out the main point of it all. That same logic applies here, and even Jafari commented on this. He used a very clever analogy of true creativity: starting off with limited tools, such a chip tune or paper and a certain number of pens to draw with.
The idea is that, because of the constraints you’re under, you feel more compelled to really think your project through and make strategic use of your tools so that you don’t waste them. It sparks your imagination, which, with time and effort, can be realized.
While there are definitely gamers out there who appreciate variety, many of them reinforce a large paradox. They always complain about games being the same, yet it’s because of their positive feedback that allows many franchises like Call of Duty and Dynasty Warriors to survive.
It’s the success of these types of games that spawn knockoff franchises and even attract developers of well-known titles. Companies feel that they could just rely on the established foundations that made previous games successful, and simply brand and rehash their subsequent releases. They know that people will pick up anything with Resident Evil in the title, regardless of whether the game in question lives up to what made RE a unique survival horror in the first place.
Most of the big companies like Microsoft think they are being innovative about actual in-game content, but they instead focus too much on the technological aspect. It ends up overcomplicating people’s gaming experience.
I mentioned earlier how I’m not a fan of motion controls. This is because I don’t want to deal with potential response issues, and I don’t feel it’s necessary to flail my arms around for movement inputs that characters were always programmed to perform via classic control schemes anyways. If I wanted real exercise, then I’d be playing sports outdoors.
Although I can’t say that the gaming culture as a whole is completely oblivious to a lot of these corporate practices. The past few years have been disappointing for plenty of big-budget AAA titles, and interestingly enough, many people have been turning their attention to refreshing indie games such as Abzû.
This has stirred controversy for many of the major developers like Activision and Ubisoft, as it should, because they need to realize that it is possible to have a degree of originality in their games if they find ways to reinvent the formula.
2. Why do Japanese games give their characters blood types?
Ever since I'd started playing games from the Final Fantasy franchise, I'd always been curious as to why blood types are included in characters' profiles, when they didn't outright carry anything of import in these games. Even up until recently, I never thought to look any of this up. I'm a world-class researcher, for sure.
Anyway, here's our chance to talk a little culture for those who also happen to be wondering the same thing. In Japan (and by extension, South Korea and Taiwan) up until the 20th century, blood types were said to be able to predict a person's character and personality traits as well as compatibility with other people.
Specifically, type A denotes diligence and taciturnity, but also stubbornness and hypersensitivity (e.g. Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 4); type B indicates creativity and passion, though selfishness and irresponsibility as well (e.g. Tifa Lockhart from Final Fantasy 7); type AB is said to be predictive of behaviour that is rational, cool, indecisive, and aloof (e.g. Lightening Barron from Final Fantasy 13); and finally, type 0 individuals are said to be ambitious, arrogant, and vain (e.g. Kennedy's spouse, Claire Redfield). So yes, characters' personalities tend to reflect their assigned blood types in Japanese games.
As we all know, this is a total myth. There's no scientific evidence to support the idea that blood grouping shapes one's overall disposition. Blood groups are determined by the type(s) of antigens (or lack thereof) we genetically inherit on the surface of our red blood cells as well as the antibodies in our blood plasma. Depending on our individual inheritances, our blood is able to protect us from different viruses. Aside from that, the other significance of blood typing lies in potential compatibility with other people's blood in times of need, and thus transfusion procedures.
Still, blood typing myths are all the rage in Japanese and South Korean popular culture. It even goes as far as people criticizing "inferior" blood types like AB, and blaming their own negative behaviour on their blood types as opposed to simply poor conduct in any given scenario.
Though if anything, I nevertheless think it's a rather neat and interesting detail to include in any video game's character profile where appropriate, because it gives that much more of a realistic sense of being to the characters themselves. Blood types are honestly the last thing anyone thinks about, but you know what? The more I think about the topic, the more I'd like to see it bear any relevance to a game's plot, unless it's been done already in some obscure title and I just didn't know about it.
Depictions of (certain) real-life activities and events in games have long been the subject of controversy whenever there's discussion about the video game industry. But since we've gone down that path, I don't see why slowly introducing blood donation would be a bad thing. It's something a lot of us voluntarily participate in, in hopes of potentially saving lives whether through transfusions or as part of the biomedical engineering process.
Sure, it has its own controversies, but pretty much everything else we're exposed to in any visual medium is always subjected to discussion and analysis. Additionally, we're becoming a lot less shy about expressing our feelings towards things for various reasons, in order to try and generate concrete answers that could be beneficial to our knowledge base.
Of course, we should strive to do so out of concern for the topic at hand, and not in an attempt to attack anyone—but as we all know, this is rather difficult to do. My point, though, is I'd like to see developers incorporate this into a narrative and explore the possibilities with it in terms of character, interactions, outcomes, and questions that surround this sort of thing.
3. Do eSports Count as "actual" sports?
You often hear people say that video games don't count as sports. I'm here to tell you that this, quite frankly, is wrong. eSports, anyone?
Now I know there's skeptics that scoff at that idea, too. Chances are, these are people that somehow have never been properly exposed to the concept of gaming, especially today's industry as we know it.
Sure, there's somewhat minimal physical effort required for games that use classic controls (although pushing buttons and swirling analog sticks for long periods of time can get tiring), but there's nevertheless skill and strategy usually involved during gameplay that require your full attention —both in your actions and your thought process. So yes, physical and mental stamina go hand in hand here.
There's also tons of games out there that are conducive to competition, and even real-life tournaments have been made out of some of them (take Smash Bros. and Overwatch, for instance). There's also various scoring systems involved in these types of games.
Getting good at video games requires commitment to training, even though it's all for entertainment. Does this sound familiar?
The other major aspect that puts this case to rest is the fact that motion controls exist, and games like Just Dance have been turned into eSport titles. If you wanted more physical activity in your games, you've got it.
To be honest, this really shouldn't even be a debate. Hell, there are people who consider marching band a sport (which it really is, if you think about it). If it's something that conditions you in any way, then in my books, it's a sport.
And don't let anybody tell you otherwise. You just play right on.