Talking ’bout my G-G-Game Generation
It’s becoming more and more apparent to me, both through my buddies and my own experience as well as through blogs I’ve been noticing pop up in our little community, that people of my “game generation” are getting a bit fatigued with the games we’re being presented. I mentioned a few correspondences ago that I had redownloaded several previous MMOs I’d enjoyed that had since gone Free to Play (or at least free to try), and was going to give each one another run for its money. Unfortunately, what happened instead was I loaded them up and was almost instantly bored with them. “That’s strange,” I thought, “I used to enjoy these games, at least to some degree. What’s going on?”
The more I pondered the question, the more I became convinced that I’m just getting tired of the same-old-same-old. Even when it’s well designed, has great graphics and animations, and provides the security of a familiar game structure (like Star Wars), I can’t make myself be interested. This follows with what Raph Koster says, but extends it, as well. He says the destiny of all games is to become boring, but I think people in my game generation are finding that to be true with whole genres.
I can’t begin to list every game I’ve played genre-by-genre. I started to do so anyway, but found it simultaneously exhausting to try to remember every game I’ve ever played and somewhat arrogant, like all these games were bragging rights. Suffice it to say, there’s been a lot, and I had only gotten through the RPG genre and was fearfully looking towards the shooter genre.
Let me put it this way: Mathematically, if I played just two hours of video games a day (on average) since I got my Nintendo (which wasn’t even my first “computer,” but it marks the first great uptick in my video game time), I’d be nearing not 10,000 hours, the Gladwell standard of expertise, but 20,000: double expert, and that’s pretending it was only two hours a day as an average. Three or four might be more accurate, even as a longitudinal average for the past several decades.
What happens when you’ve devoted so much time to a single (sort of; each game is different) cause? I’m not sure. For me, it’s become an issue of tolerance, as in the medical form. I’ve developed a high tolerance for games, so it takes more and more for me to get excited. Tobold wrote on the professional angle of this recently when he discussed whether game reviewers should be old hats or new ones, but I believe there’s a personal toll as well; the more we’ve played, the more fun we’ve had, the harder it is to keep finding it.
In the past, when this type of genre-tolerance has risen up, a new genre appeared. Consider RPGs changing from text-based adventures to party-based first-person perspective (think Darkside of Xeen or Wizardry) to more “flowing” hex based games like Baldur’s Gate or Fallout. In the later models, the party system was maintained, though with some caveats about having to build your party. As those games began to run old around the time of Baldur’s Gate 2 or Neverwinter Nights, we had MMOs on the rise.
Shooters are no different. I think back to my old Atari and Commodore 64 “bottom up” shooters like the classic Space Invaders. Then we get side scrollers, like the original Duke Nukems. That turns into Wolfenstein 3d, where they finally merge the shooter idea with the first person role-playing perspective. From there there’s been relatively little development of that genre, except perhaps the over-the-shoulder shooter which has recently become more popular (though I can’t stand that weird off-to-the-side perspective).
Games have evolved a lot, but recently due to the wild success of MMOs, particularly WoW, I feel like innovation’s taken a hit while companies instead focus on money-making ventures. I’m sure there’s innovation out there, but I’m just not sure where, and I want the innovation. The second part of having developed a high tolerance to games is the need for that stronger hit. I’m an addict, you see, an old-school “started playing when I was only seven years old” addict who needs more and more to get the same rush of exhilaration. It’s not a good feeling to constantly not get it.
To be clear, that’s not to say I dislikethe games I play. I don’t. I’ve really enjoyed most of them (Don’t buy Spellbound 2, by the way). I’m impressed with innovation, enjoy kind-of-new gameplay, and revel in the fun I do have – and I do have fun. I just don’t have the fun I used to have, and it doesn’t last as long as it used to. I thought for a while it was something to do with me, personally. Perhaps I simply was a being a brat, hard to entertain, ungrateful for what I had. I don’t know, though. The more I think about those 20,000 hours (or likely more), the more I wonder. How many more hours does it take to move from expert to burnout?
Stubborn (and desperately seeking new game innovations)