Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bring it on, gaming industry!

Now that developers are delivering complex and realistic contexts for us to experience, I have a couple gripes with modern gaming.
Thanks for the three choices...

One thing that makes me roll my eyes is games that don't allow you to assign your own buttons/controls.
I appreciate the developers carefully thinking out a scheme that works optimally for most players. However, I think the characters' actions are designed before the input. This means that unassigned, custom controls are something so painfully simple to implement in control options that I can't think of a good defense for not including them. It's like only having a red house available as your option. At some point after the house was built, there was a stage where the house wasn't painted, and passing along the burden of painting it is something easier for the builder to do. 

That's what daddy likes...PS4 lets you
manually reassign for the system

Except I see at least half of the games I play with no customization. Even more insulting is when a PC game does this. To tie this gripe into something more meaningful; there was a story of a disabled gamer who was able to rig his own device to play games. The catch was that he required those games to have assignable buttons. So, not only do I look at shooters that use the shoulder button as fire instead of the trigger with absolute distaste (I'm looking at you Spec Ops: The Line, and Uncharted), this guy is getting robbed of these games entirely because game studios are taking a "Daddy knows best," approach. Well lay off the crackpipe, Dad, R trigger/R2 is the only way to fire! Lack of customizable controls doesn't bring any benefits, but including them does. Gamers who really like your control scheme will use it; others like me may lose favor; and people like the McGuyver of Disabled Gaming don't get to experience some games at all.

The second tired thing in gaming is the white male lead. There are articles about it here, and PBS Game Show did an episode about it. That doesn't mute my voice, though. I'm tired of playing in worlds with only white people. I live in Washington State, for crying out loud, I know what white people look like. Some of my favorite games are lead by white characters: God of War and Uncharted stand out. At least God of War's Kratos was voiced by a black person, and the Uncharted series delivered really interesting, flushed out characters, and also had foreign languages.

But I knew Master Chief was white before the absolutely unnecessary face reveal, and most of the western RPGs are just wall-to-wall whiteness. Even if you can design your character to be black as midnight, usually the voice is so obviously white.

I guess only light skinned humans survive into 2100s...eesh.
There is also that core of people that love to call street black language "racist," even though quite a bit of people sound like that. It's one thing to have the only black character in a story sound like that and drop random n-bombs; it's another to have a character who speaks the language in his or her own way because of their background. Or whatever. The Mass Effect Trilogy was disappointing in this regard: all 3 games, my superficially black character sounded like Captain Janeway from Star Trek Voyager, not the Kenyan princess I had imagined. This is my complaint as a black gamer, but I imagine other minorities feel a bit peeved playing the same racial stock over and over.

My last gripe is that game development focus is all screwed up. While Microsoft and Sony are too busy converging on PCs, Nintendo is the last company trying to innovate. New IP is rare, and the last two generations are mostly franchise favorites. The difference is that Nintendo always tries to make gameplay center around the latest gimmick in their systems. For example, while PS4 games are touting 60fps and Xbox one holds the crown for awesome marketplaces, Metroid and Zelda have you using the Wii wand to aim your arm cannon and swing your sword. The Wii U versions use the Wii U pad's screen for inventory and map management, while all the action happens on your main tv. Nintendo's gameplay additions fundamentally change the experience, whereas the Sony and Microsoft counterparts simply look prettier.

smarm alert!
The Xbox One Kinect is so well-integrated; voice commands work well, motion capture is great, but so many titles don't utilize these features because Microsoft was too worried about chasing dollars to try and become its own console. Sony's Move sucks, and they should have given up on motion-capture this generation and focused on controller-in-hand games.

The biggest shame is that console gaming development is shifting in Japan to mobile games, and all that aforementioned innovation is on its way down the toilet. I cry about this into my pillow at night.

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