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There's a perpetual irony within the gaming community. We're constantly decrying the sequel-heavy dearth of originality in today's safe-bet-driven industry, yet time and time again the imaginative, artistic and flair-filled games that we claim we want absolutely tank while we all play more Call of Duty. So I think it's time to ask what we really want. Do we want to take chances on new experiences, or are we secretly much happier just taking more of what we know we like?
Allegedly, hardcore gamers are the ones with the most money to spend on games. As the central enthusiasts of the pastime, we pick up far more games and buy with much greater regularity than more casual players. So it should probably follow suit that when a less mainstream, more innovative title comes along, we'll not only be the ones who know about it, but we'll have the passion and the numbers to make it a relevent market player, even if not a major hit.
All too often though, this just doesn't happen. Okami. Godhand. Beyond Good & Evil. Jet Set Radio. Grim Fandango. No More Heroes. Psychonauts. Alan Wake. Critter Crunch. Muramasa. MadWorld. That's just a handful of games off the top of my head that brought us exactly the kind of fresh, experimental ideas or off-kilter presentation we keep asking for. And not a single one of them sold like our constant battlecry of originality implies that it should have.
The reason? They were just too different from the norm for their market or platform, and there were big, safe-bet franchise games to buy instead of that weird-looking new stuff. Yes, the much bigger market for games these days means a bigger proportion of people who only play CoD or Halo, but even with mainstream mega-franchises having such big followings surely we, the more informed and prolific buyers, should be helping them make a dent. When Naughty Bear is seen ranking highly in high street game stores' charts while genuinely good games go nowhere, something is clearly going wrong.
It seems increasingly like gamers really want iteration rather than revolution. It's rare - except in unique cases of huge cult developer fanbases like Valve - than a genuinely revolutionary or experimental title makes the sales impact it should. We like our games to get better and bring us new ideas, but in cold hard, monetary practice we seem to like those ideas in small increments, and based on things we already know.
Above: For all of his brutal murdering, Jack's greatest crime was appearing on the Wii
And there's a particularly strange case with the Wii. Everyone and his dog owns one, and the hardcore who have them spend all their time bemoaning its status as a casual shovel-ware platform. But when it does do something interesting? We ignore it because it's on the Wii. Because we're too distracted by the big shiny HD blockbusters of the month. I know I've done this myself, and I know there are a stack of decent Wii games I haven't touched as a result. But hey, it doesn;t matter, because it's culturally easy for me to blanket-judge everything on the Wii as crap.
So I ask you, what really informs your game buying? Do you actively seek out more interesting and different titles, and take chances on the wealth of indie offerings out there? Or are you happier taking the (financially understandable) safe bet on the bigger stuff every time? And what motivates your decision?
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