As of this writing, I’m 22 years old. That’s 22 years of gaming history that I’ve witnessed. Hell, I’m ancient compared to this current generation of young gamers.
I’ve grown up with the original Game Boy, the second iteration of the Sega Genesis, and the original PlayStation. I was haunted by my Christmas tree as my unwrapped (but sealed) PlayStation 2 sat there, staring me in the face for 3 weeks. I shed a small tear when I earned enough money from my first job to purchase a PlayStation 3. I’ve seen the industry evolve from shareware PC games to today’s DRM-locked titles. I’ve seen joysticks and controllers take all shapes and sizes. And quite frankly, I still haven’t seen as much as gamers only 10 years older than me.
And yet, something’s missing in today’s games.
I first noticed it prior to purchasing my PS3, as the glut of games on the market left me jaded. There were so many titles to choose from, but few that left me giddy as a schoolgirl (well, er, schoolboy). The more I tried new games, the more I kept going back to my old standbys and yearly updates. For every Madden title and WWE game I pre-ordered, I had a playthrough of Suikoden and Final Fantasy to match. It was as if I needed nostalgia to help me accept change. Games have since evolved technologically, but industry trends have remained largely stagnant.
As graphics are continually updated and consoles are pushed to the limit, games still fall under the same trappings of genres — even ones that proclaim themselves to be without classification. Sandbox games like Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto are, at their core, adventure games. Open-world titles like Fallout and Elder Scrolls are still traditional RPGs with a non-traditional freedom of choice. A create-your-own-fun game like LittleBigPlanet is still a platformer at heart. While it doesn’t do those games justice to boil them down to a singular genre, the truth is, innovation is still in short supply in today’s video games. There is only so much that can be done in any industry before it gets back to basics.
The issue is, today’s games lack heart.
I don’t look at a title like L.A. Noire with the same reverence as Suikoden II. I don’t play Street Fighter IV and feel the same as I did with Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Hell, in the case of the latter, the only modern title that’s mirrored that nostalgia is the HD Remix of Puzzle Fighter — far from a new game.
Today’s games lack heart because there isn’t the same emotional investment. Games may place you in the shoes of a character with a detailed backstory, but there’s no reason to care beyond a single playthrough. There isn’t a feeling of fondness tied to any gaming experience in today’s generation of consoles. Perhaps I’ve become such as cynical as Stan Marsh in the latest episode of South Park. Perhaps I’m just not playing the right games. It bothers me, however, that no game I’ve played in the past 5 years has given me the same warm, fuzzy feelings that titles from 10 years ago have.
What are your thoughts on today’s games? Am I right in that they lack heart? Or has my own heart turned cold towards gaming entirely? Continue the conversation below in the comments, or hit me on Twitter (@FranchiseSAYS).