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Stop moaning about Activision and have some fun: Why games are healthier than ever

Yeah, yeah, I know. Everything is an FPS, Bobby Kotick is a raging money-demon made of fun-tumours, and publishers are so obsessed with sequels that if by some accident you have made an original game, you might was well stick a number on the end of its title just to pretend. The modern games industry is a smouldering great heap of dull brains and sinister intentions.

Except it’s not. It' not at all. It’s bloody brilliant. In fact it’s the best it’s ever been, and if you spend all your days moaning about it you need to shut the hell up, look beyond the end of your nose and realise that the only person ruining your enjoyment of games is in fact yourself. And over the course of this page, I’ll explain why. 

Video games are in a healthier state this generation than they’ve ever been. Yes, they’re making more money than Hollywood and they’ve cracked the mainstream most triumphantly, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the games themselves.

You see the irony is that as much as it’s become de facto gamer behaviour to whinge about Activision and bemoan the hopelessness of it all in a daily attempt to prove how cool and credible one is, that kind of crap is just self-indulgent negativity towards an easy target that achieves nothing more than to stop you enjoying all the good that massively outweighs the Kotick.

People moan about big companies flattening indie development, but if you actually make the effort to look around, it’s doing just fine, thank you very much. Yes, huge, triple-A games developed by independents are an increasingly rare occurance as spiralling budgets and financial risks proliferate, but on a smaller level, things are great. In fact there’s now a whole new market that we never had before.

Last gen, if you wanted to be noticed on home consoles, indie or not,  you had to make a big budget 3D game. Fact. Think of knocking out a 2D platformer or adventure game and you might as well have eaten a slice of cyanide pie before you even started coding. Put down the rose-tinted paint pot and you’ll realise that last-gen was even more about safe-bets than this one. Through the rise of digital distribution, more interesting , experimental games can happen now. And not only that, but they can have massive success.

We lost something when things went 3D in the 32-bit era. We lost a certain kind of game design, and more than that, we lost what that game design was going to evolve into. For two generations it was gone, and games became severely limited as a medium, however technically impressive they may have been. But now we have XBLA. We have the PSN. We have WiiWare, DSiWare and Steam. Small devs with small budgets and off-kilter ideas now have a voice again and a focused forum for distributing to a large-scale, mainstream audience. And all of that gives this generation’s machines (and more importantly their audiences) a more eclectic, accepting, experimental culture than they’ve ever had.

Think about it.  Would last generation’s mainstream gamers have gone loopy over Braid? Would the insane humour of Castle Crashers ever have picked up a following? Would the hardcore 2D perfection of Geometry Wars or Bionic Commando: Rearmed have found an audience? Would the entire internet have worshipped at the dark cathederal of Limbo? No. None of these things would have happened at all.


Above: All the justification this generation needs

Downloadable gaming networks have reintroduced this kind of gaming to console culture, they’ve switched the audience back on to the full possibilities of games as a medium, and just as importantly, the explosion of social networking, both on and off consoles, has created a never-more-thriving, never-more enthusiastic gaming community that promotes good new games by word of mouth faster, more efficiently, and with better targeting than any marketing department could ever hope to.

And it’s not just about consoles (as great as the D/L services on them are, the old problem of platform-holder as gate-keeper still prevails to a degree). If you’ve got even a semi-decent PC, get on Steam and spend an hour ploughing through the store and getting involved in the community. You’ll discover a million and one games you’ve never heard of – hell, probably a few genres you’ve never heard of - at least half of which you’ll be interested in looking into further.


Above: Dessicated pirate head optional

The spectrum of what’s now available as a result of the total freedom of PC development is frankly ludicrous, and the majority of it is dirt cheap to buy. The incentive to take a chance on new experiences has never been greater, for devs or for gamers. And then there’s the iPhone as well…

Limbo. Braid. Trials HD. Castle Crashers. Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. Leave Home. Canabalt. Kaleidoscope. Joe Danger. Fl0w. Flower. PixelJunk everything. Echochrome. Burn, Zombie, Burn! Noby Noby Boy. Bionic Commando: Rearmed. Deathspank. The Path. Penumbra. Critter Crunch. Doodle Jump. Angry Birds. God Finger. None of these games would have existed last generation, and if anyone had been brave enough to squeeze them out, they would have tanked. Now however, they’re as big a part of the landscape as anything else. And there's still all the blockbuster stuff alongside. Games. Amazing now. That's what they are.

So everyone's jumping on the motion control bandwagon and some idiot has compared Captain Price to Han Solo. Who cares? There are more important things to concentratate on.

But what do you think? Should gamers just lighten the hell up, get their heads out of the misery sand and start looking a little further for cool stuff to play? Or am I being ludicrously optimistic, and is it all actually a big ball of toss? Let me know in the comments, or via our jumping little night spots on Facebook and Twitter.

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40 comments

  • elpurplemonkey - July 23, 2010 10:21 p.m.

    Great article, right on the money. But frankly, last gen looks sorta delicious.
  • Audiojack - July 23, 2010 6:45 p.m.

    Honestly, I don't really give a toss about this. My only complaint is that the games have just gone from arcade to ultra-realistic and then BACK AGAIN. What is with all these mainstream arcade games? They're dull and boring, I'll rather just go back and play Rainbow Six 3 or Operation Flashpoint.
  • 4fromK - July 23, 2010 1:24 p.m.

    Yeah, I get sick of haters, in any context. Cynicism is so fucking trendy it makes me want to laugh at the poor mopey losers who can't enjoy themselves. Because remember, the only thing better than laughing with people is laughing at them.
  • pin316 - July 23, 2010 12:15 p.m.

    All the points are valid, but i don't think it addresses the main source of a lot of the negativity that is out there... Sure, there are people around who just go on about what is happening now and how it is crap/full of shovelware/nothing but a rip-off/unimaginative or whatever, but i would find those people to be the muinority. The main thing that worries/annoys a lot of people that i know who game, as well as being something that gets a lot of discussion in forums, is not the state of gaming at present but rather where it is heading. With all the constant rumours about online gaming going down a pay-to-play/subscription route, the more and more prominent misrepresentation of gaming in terms of content/cernsorship and corruption of youth, and the slowly but consistently increasing of prices for the same content, or decrease in content for the same price, of DLC for games that is proven to be built into the game from day one rather than genuine additional content...even the talk about having to basically pay for DEMOs - it is very hard to not imagine big-publisher gaming becoming more and more about milking the consumer for as much as possible in as little time, rather than just improving the experience and charging accordingly. I'm not one to shirk away from putting back into the industry. I haven't bought a second-hand game this generation, have purchased DLC when thought was decent (Halo3/Gears2 map-packs), and have bought quite a few indie/arcade titles... Paying money for something isn't anything that i would complain about, but more and more it seems as though the industry (or at least the big chunks of it) want us to pay for nothing as well.....
  • philipshaw - July 23, 2010 11:22 a.m.

    You are spot on because there is no way that one of my favorite games of this gen Flower would have came out last gen when the only way to sell games was through retail. I read a feature in PSM3 where the devs said the same thing as me. The likes of PSN and XBL is one the best things about this gen
  • Pirate - July 23, 2010 6:08 a.m.

    I still hate Kotick but I was never very cynical of the state of the industry. So many good games have come out just this year that I have a backlog. I still have some from last year. Games are great. I bought Trails HD and the DLC months ago and had loads of fun with all of it. I don't complain much about Kotick except his pricing point for the map packs but I only do so on the hope that other devs won't follow suit.
  • lukel127 - July 23, 2010 5:17 a.m.

    The price for a PSN/XBLA game depends on how much you're getting. $15 shouldn't be the standard, it should depend on the game itself. I would happily pay $15 for a game like Joe Danger, but for five maps on MW2? No.
  • Sabtos - July 23, 2010 3:37 a.m.

    "Think of knocking out a 2D platformer or adventure game and you might as well have eaten a slice of cyanide pie before you even started coding." Nice, and absolutely right. Love the downloadable scene, half the games I've played this gen have been purchased through PSN. However, I can still hate on Activision and call to all others to do so as well. Dispicable company that, hopefully, is only caused by Kotick or some other singular source, that way they can, hopefully, get rid of it.
  • Felixthecat - July 22, 2010 11:08 p.m.

    The title of this article is EXACTLY what I have been telling people for ages. Just grow up and play the damn game. Who gives a shit who made it, if it's good, buy it or rent it, the publisher/developer will make money either way.
  • Clovin64 - July 22, 2010 11:02 p.m.

    I think most people are just too bogged down with nostalgia that they cant appreciate todays AAA games. Also it seems like the fashionable trend nowadays to say that games of past generations are superior to modern games. A lot of so called hardcore gamers believe that saying this and that SNES game is far superior to the latest PS3/360 game makes them "hardcore". @JohnnyMaverik Its too late to ignore it, I've already read it all. Now your pessimism has upset me.
  • GangsterJew92 - July 22, 2010 10 p.m.

    wonderfully said
  • JohnnyMaverik - July 22, 2010 9:36 p.m.

    TBH reading back over that I was spouting a load of crap... so yea, ignore the above -_- Good article in retrospect.
  • Manguy17 - July 22, 2010 9:07 p.m.

    agree totally, peoples need to lighten up and get some good stuffs, just wish more people spent that extra time to find out what is good, example. my freind has bought a £1200 pc and wants to be a real pc gamer, he has never heard of quake and had decided to buy naughty bear.
  • SydistiK - July 22, 2010 8:40 p.m.

    Last time I checked raw chicken wasn't healthy.
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - July 22, 2010 8:22 p.m.

    I know steam is amazing and I intend to search through but I don't have the perfect opportunity to plunder its depths until I have a new/better PC. My PC is quite a relic now..
  • Ded - July 22, 2010 6:17 p.m.

    @FauxFurry I know what you mean about Yahtzee's reviews.. some are pretty funny, but he really just does complain complain complain. Apparently those ones are more popular than the old ones where he occasionally praised games. So to his fans, this means all games in general are getting worse? Who knows.. sure it's not helping the industry though.
  • JohnnyMaverik - July 22, 2010 6:09 p.m.

    Ok, I can't leave it at that. Right, above rant that was only vaguely connected to the article aside, your still wrong, because these games were around last gen (well ok, games like them), from 2D indie platformers to crazy AAA games, it's just most of the platformers weren't on console and were freeware so other than pc focused journos they were flatly ignored, as for the Crazy AAA titles like Psyconaughts and VTM:B, they just wouldn't get past the pitching stage this gen. So, yea, indie platformers are getting more attention but Sony and Microsoft like to force exclusivity on they just because they can, which sucks sweaty goat balls, so while it's great indie devs can get their games 2D platformers out there for money, and don't get me wrong, Cave Story, I'd have paid for that, they get used as bargaining chips for the "oh look how supportive on indie devs we are, join us mortals, taste our xbox live goodness, also pay us 50 quid" and only the successful ones, and believe me when I say most of them aren't get the funds to go over to PS3 and PC (even wii) when the timed exclusivity wears off. As for the crazy ambitious and unique AAA titles, they don't get made this gen, because they aren't safe, and that's down to publishers being blind sighted dicks. Why didn't Singuarity get pushed by Activision? Because they're blind sighted dicks. Why is Limbo 360 exclusive? Because Micrsoft are money grabbing whores and a cancerious lump on the heart of this industry, and also dicks just for good measure (sony also deserve a slap... *slaps sony*). Why do EA and Ubisoft (probably Activision as well) put their in house B teams on stupid casual projects they have no interest in and which usually aren't ever released anyway, instead of letting them get creative and put out stuff like Limbo and Deathspank? Because they're massive blind sighted dicks. Also I know this for a fact because I know a guy who works for EA on one of these B teams. The platform developers and big publishers still hold most of the chips, services like steam have helped, but the industry still isn't healthy because the big guys are the same wankers they were last gen. Room for improvement, C- games industry.
  • JohnnyMaverik - July 22, 2010 5:44 p.m.

    Well that turned into a rant O.o Anyway, I'm off to finish Psychonaughts, one of the many great games from the last gen. Also, Fallout 3, isn't as good as Morrowind, nor is Oblivion, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
  • JohnnyMaverik - July 22, 2010 5:34 p.m.

    I disagree completely, problem is your looking at it from a console gamer perspective (not saying your blinded by you console mindedness, because I don't think your solely console minded, however the article is written from a console minded perspective). Take VTM:B, best game ever, only held back by bugs and general jankiness, because those wankers Activision didn't give Troika time to finish the game, then because it was brilliant but very buggy and janky it reviewed extremely well, but for a buggy and janky game, not just a brilliant game. Didn't sell great off the boot due to the reviews, Troika gets nerfed, couple of years later people start preaching VTM:B because the community patches had started to come out fixing a lot of the big issues, people start buying the game from steam, Activision pockets all the cash, Troika are still dead. That was last gen, this gen, VTM:B would never be made, because Vampires aren't in atm and can you make it a third person action game please? Fuck Activision and fuck "the great games" of this gen. RDR? Fuck off, VTM:B > RDR. Gears of War 3, LOL, no -_-
  • DustyRooster - July 22, 2010 5:16 p.m.

    Nice one, Dave! I got Limbo last night and played it for 3 hours. It is blowing my mind away with dark fun. Some of my favorite games are download games. The Last Guy, and Super Stardust HD on PSN are also very good.

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