Games that every other game should copy

Grand Theft Auto

What every game should copy: The protagonist diversity

Minorities are everywhere in gaming. Sidekicks! Comic relief! Wise Morgan Freeman-esque mentor figures! Why, there’s absolutely no role they can’t fill – except for the hero, of course. That’s reserved for the “generic white guy.” When even Japanese RPGs star blue-eyed blondes, and even shooters with no visible protagonist feature pale hands at the bottom of the screen, you know this medium has a diversity problem.

Yet one of the most powerful publishers in the industry, Rockstar, has been aggressively – and progressively – bucking this trend for over half a decade now. Thanks to the Grand Theft Auto series, we’ve played as an African-American, an Eastern-European, two Dominicans, a Chinese immigrant and a Jewish biker. These protagonists’ ethnicities weren’t glossed over details, either, but integral pieces of their games’ identities. 

Rockstar’s reward for thinking outside the white bread box? Billions in sales, massive cultural impact and – what truly matters – unique characters that won’t be forgotten for a very long time.


What every game should copy: The community love

Halo haters gonna hate… but maybe they’re just jealous? Odds are their favorite franchise doesn’t give them anywhere near as much power, influence and freedom as developer Bungie gave to fans of the first five Halo games. The number of ways you’re allowed to customize your experience – or create an entirely new experience – is really remarkable. Especially for a series that is exclusive to the traditionally more restrictive realm of consoles.

Want to invent a multiplayer mode in which the sci-fi soldiers of Halo are transformed into invisible ninja assassins instead? Or zombie hordes? Or hijacking pirates? Or rocket-wielding racecar drivers? That’s all possible with Custom Games. Want to build a map that looks like the Death Star, USS Enterprise or Cookie Monster? Fire up Forge mode. Want to direct your own chapter of Master Chief’s adventures? Surprisingly easy with Saved Films.

Bungie understood that shipping a game should only be the first step – hand the proper tools to your fans and they can continue to expand the experience forever.

Portal / Half-Life

What every game should copy: The release schedule

Have you heard of Valve Time? It’s the explanation for why no game developed by Valve Software will ever release on the date that Valve Software promises – according to the exhausted logic of fans forced to find humor in their continuous disappointment, the company must operate on a timeline different from that of planet Earth’s. Team Fortress 2 is teased as coming “soon” in 1998, so of course doesn’t arrive until late 2007. New episodes of Half-Life 2 are scheduled for every three months, so naturally emerge every few years… if at all.

Don’t care. When the alternative is Activision’s factory model – churn out a new entry year after year after year without fail, even if that means taking a series away from its original creators, flooding all available platforms and ultimately losing the respect of your audience – waiting for Valve doesn’t seem so bad.

No guaranteed release date = guaranteed quality? That promise is enough.


What every game should copy: The courage to change

In an age of annual sequels featuring modest, incremental improvements, too many play it safe these days. The developers probably don’t deserve much of the blame, as publishers certainly push them to make predictable sequel because those usually lead to predictable profits. If only other game makers had the guts to try something new and big with each release like Nintendo does with Mario.

Perhaps “novel concepts” and “change” don’t mesh with your idea of who Mario is, but when you focus on the main platformer series, ignoring all the spin-offs, you see a history of Mario defying convention. Donkey Kong invented platforming. Super Mario Bros defined the scrolling world despite every other game’s reliance on a single screen. Super Mario Bros 2 (yes, the US version) completely changed the way Mario interacted with enemies. Mario 3 added flight, World added Yoshi, Mario 64 added an entire new dimension. Not only did each of those include a colossal, genre-changing mechanic, it was supported by dozens of other new concepts sprinkled throughout. Even Mario Sunshine, with its tolerable water-spouting backpack proved the devs are always trying something new even if it isn’t met with extreme approval. Most recently the tradition of inventiveness continued with Galaxy, which again completely changed the way Mario interacted with the world around him.

When Nintendo decides to create a new core Mario (normally for a new system), they see it as an opportunity to start over and reimagine Mario all over again. Starting up the newest Mario and seeing him do something he’s never done before is a huge part of his lasting appeal. Maybe everyone won’t succeed as often as Nintendo when they experiment similarly the each new game in a franchise, but it would certainly make things more interesting.

May 20, 2011

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  • oni - May 31, 2011 3 a.m.

    I'm bored. About Halo. Halo is actually copying that community thing from the PC. Where else do you find games releasing mod editors, tools and support for their fans long before Halo did. I've recently returned to Counterstrike after all these years and quite surprised to see people still making mods for it. Yeah that's the game made years before Halo. Actually it wasn't a full game to begin with. It was a mod made by a couple guys with still studying.
  • fatguy19 - May 27, 2011 8:54 p.m.

    I really dont get this fanboy crap. Microsoft and Sony are really just faceless corporations that could not give a shit whether you live or die as long as you buy their products. Why choose between HAlo and Killzone? they`re both great so play them both. Its like Forxa and Gran Turismo why fight over which one is better when they are basically the same game and if you like racing sims then just play both. Idiots who slect sides and then bitch and moan about the opposition are missing out on some great exclusives.
  • Sleuth - May 26, 2011 11:12 p.m.

    Mass Effect's universe is amazing.
  • lovinmyps3 - May 26, 2011 7:42 p.m.

    I think I know which entry Henry contributed.
  • Dondada - May 26, 2011 4:35 p.m.

    "The protagonist diversity" Glad you guys touched this one. Got old really fast playing the same buzz cut, Nathan Drake sounding white guy who for the last 25 years. My GAWD.
  • foxyexplosion - May 26, 2011 8:32 a.m.

    Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the diversity tag for GTA is right above a number of built, slightly foreign looking males with buzzcuts and a bit of scruff. Where's my sassy black female protagonist? Or my tiny asian male with Jdrama hair? I suppose it shows how they can make the same character in every race...
  • isimikehinde - May 25, 2011 11:55 p.m.

    @ACardAttack-Sorry but Mario does represent change.No single Major Mario game is the same,its like nintendo is always starting again with mario,From Mario 64 break into 3D, to Galaxy's use of spherical and gravity movement, we see mario evolve and alter,thereby,creating game mechanics and level design that drastically alters the game while still holding on to the fundamentals,that is platforming. I can honestly say most games don't take take risk.Most successful games stick to the same thing, E.g Call of Duty,by adding little enhancements like more guns,perks and streak.Until there is competition,they dont drastically change,but Mario didn't need competition.It just kept on reinvinting and it still is.
  • Cloud1Fair3 - May 25, 2011 4:52 p.m.

    I definitely agree that good cinematics=great game. I love games with a great story, but I dislike and have been unable to play games like Oblivion and Fallout. Maybe that's my loss but it's so big and so unattached to the main story if you choose to run around, that I just can't play it. It would help to offer rewards for sticking to the story like amazing cutscenes or something. I think the thing that makes me enjoy linear games more than open world is usually the cinematics and story is more fleshed out in a linear game and it really is a more enjoyable experience where I don't feel like I've wasted 40 hours if it was like reading a good book. Open world and sandboxes are amazing if done right, like most Rockstar games (especially Red Dead Redemption) or Assassins Creed. Sure they're huge and there is a lot to do, but that's just if you want to hit the power button to dick around, but what keeps me coming back is a great story. God of War 3 and Uncharted 2, some of the best cinematics and epicness I could ever ask for in a game. Just sayin, they weren't huge like Western RPG's where I don't even feel like sinking 100+ hours into just to dick around and enjoy the massive scale, but they were great 10+ hour games regardless and one of the best experiences a gamer could have. Maybe I'm just one of the lame minority that couldn't sit down and enjoy what makes western RPGs great, but I'll stick to my JRPG's with great story, even if they are linear. You could argue that Western RPGs have a great story, but I'm usually too bored with it 2 hours in to care.
  • lukas1051 - May 25, 2011 3:18 p.m.

    Good article, but Valve time? Are you fucking joking? If every game went by Valve time they'd never be released. Criticise CoD's annual releases all you like, but at least it keeps their fans happy.
  • GrandTheftAuto - May 25, 2011 1:12 p.m.

    Aw i thought you would add this but no.. What every game should copy (atleast fps games) the destruction from BF3! Or since it's not out atleast BC2
  • philipshaw - May 25, 2011 12:30 p.m.

    Everything in this list is spot on
  • SilentTee - May 25, 2011 11:53 a.m.

    That's what I've always liked GTA, the different protagonists. Maybe one of these days they'll make one with a female lead and she'll a minority?... I can only hope.
  • Rhymenocerous - May 25, 2011 9:27 a.m.

    Must be pretty hard to make an RTS game with no HUD. But still, awesome list and article.
  • InfinityPrimo - May 25, 2011 8:52 a.m.

    Seriously I can't get over it! Mr. Charlie Barratt you deserve an effin REWARD!!! Pulizter Prize, Nobel Peace, Congressional Medal of Honor, WHATEVER THE HECK THE FREE WORLD CAN GIVE YOU! THIS ARTICLE IS AMAZING...Seriously... I can die happy
  • InfinityPrimo - May 25, 2011 8:49 a.m.

    This article...Simply amazing... Everything, I mean everything is perfect. THIS should be talked about next TalkRadar Seriously!!!!!
  • quincytheodore - May 25, 2011 6:19 a.m.

    Agree on Dead Space, I long for the day where HUD is no longer needed, or at least minimized. You should do Mafia 2 for collectibles. Seriously... I can't overpraise Bioware's dedication and commitment to their titles. It's beautiful, as long as they do that, no matter what the franchise, my money is theirs. Completely agree on GTA / Rockstar protagonist, you really put it well. About release date, fans will demand some certainty on when they will play the game, but with Valve method, some will be disappointed. The ones who figured out the release date is a lie, probably will not care about the date. So why the charade? Gamers are not stupid, rather than giving uncertain date, just say, "When it's done." Isn't it better to wake up one day, unknowingly and BAM! "Portal 3 is out next week!". Surprise me, Valve.
  • ZigzMagoo - May 25, 2011 4:40 a.m.

    I was thinking of Brink the whole way through this article. Every single entry
  • Fuzunga - May 25, 2011 4:15 a.m.

    I thought you were joking about the GTA thing. Those guys all look the same.
  • Yeager1122 - May 25, 2011 4:02 a.m.

    Every game should copy these aspects put them together and make the best game ever.
  • grayguwapo - May 25, 2011 2:57 a.m.

    you forgot to include GOW - don't be afraid to show real bloody gore as how it's suppose to show... :)