It’s a question on a few people’s lips, not least because games are looking a little stale at the moment. If you take a look at, for instance, the top 10 games for the Xbox360 games at www.gamespot.com you’ll see the top game (Forza 2) only garnered 9.2 out of 10. Clearly something is missing.
Okay, so it takes some time for new consoles to get the great games. This is a mixture of developers working out how to use the technology, ideas starting to flow through and acceptance by consumers of games beyond just Fifa 1,000. Things like Blue Dragon are coming through, which shows the promise of the current generation.
So where are games going next? Well what I find interesting is that games such as Okami haven’t been a great success yet Eternal Sonata and Blue Dragon are emerging – financed by the US yet made at least to crack the Japanese market whilst garnering critical acclaim and serious sales in other territories.
Both of these games have two things in common. Firstly, they are quite stylised visually. There share a look that is at once cartoony as well as a little bit special. Almost as though you’re playing a favourite anime. The other thing they have in common is story.
Story is one way in which games can start to develop beyond their current level. Half Life 2 hit the PC some time ago now, but it was well structured, paced and had an interesting storyline. Let’s not mention the end though eh? Still, this shows the direction in which games can and should develop.
Of course, not all games have (or should have) a great storyline. Games that belong on the Wii or Xbox Live (I’m not saying they are one and the same before you start complaining) are much more about the experience. That’s why they appeal to the casual gamer. They give a quick fulfilment at times, which I’m sure the new Nintendo accessory will do.
Emotion is a big talking point of games in the future. Is it actually possible to feel something during a game? Well I think it’s quite obvious that this is the case. Just to name one emotion, you have frustration. Something like Ikaruga will supply that in spades. On the other hand, what about the more deep stuff like caring, sacrifice, sadness and so forth?
One of the reasons that graphics are important in games is that they make you feel. It is the difference between feverishly working toward a high score filled with mindless routine and genuinely getting something rewarding from a game. It is this difference that separates old-school versus newer games.
One of the most famous games to feature ’emotion’ is Final Fantasy IIV. This game featured many memorable characters but frequently people cite the death of Aeris as one of the first truly emotive gaming experiences they’ve had. I know a couple of people who almost cried at this. One of the reasons for this I have no doubt is that Final Fantasy IIV is a very extensive game that takes a long time to play through fully. Thus, a player has more investment both in time and emotion with the game.
Of course, gaming has the more sinister side exposed too. Just look at Silent Hill. Quite a scary game by any accounts. It gets worse, in the form of Condemned: Criminal Origins. This game is perhaps undermined by a rather odd story, but the action is very much all creepy.
This demonstrates one of the issues with narrative. A good story can create atmosphere but action can do this just as well. I guess what I’m saying is that in future we might not necessarily see great stories or great action but perhaps a blend of both until gaming truly finds its feet.
As it is, some games will have a lot to offer in this newer, more evolved form of gaming include:
Metal Gear Solid 4
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
Dreamfall – The Longest Journey
Grand Theft Auto IV
Of course, another issue with how games are developing is what’s known as ‘emergent gameplay‘. That’s definitely something to save for another article though as the topic literally grows daily as we here more and more about next generation games. In the meantime, go and sample some emotion of your own with some of the deeply involving games above.