I’ll tell you the trend that annoys me the most about modern gaming, and that’s current-generation graphics. Not that they’re bad. On the contrary, they’re fantastically realistic, and that’s the problem, because realism is not fun. The real world is dull, depressing and cruel, a place where most people will spend most of their lives toiling away at jobs they hate before a frustrated co-worker breaks off a drill bit in their eye. Games are supposed to take you away from that.
Ten-odd years ago we had Carmageddon. Get in your brightly-colored spiky death car made from blocky polygons and plough through sprite pedestrians whose every bodily organ flies off in a different direction with even the gentlest of bumps. And it was ****ing awesome. Compare that with GTAIV, where my jaded protagonist with realistic facial expressions wanders through a desaturated brown haze before stealing a dented sedan with dodgy acceleration and running over an old lady. Thud! She rolls off the bonnet in a perfect simulation of real-world physics and is deposited in a screaming pile of broken hips and mint imperials. That’s not fun. Now I just feel bad.
There’s always an obligation to exploit the newest hardware and create the most realistic graphics possible, which in turn creates the obligation to have realistic games, especially with shooters. Remember back in the Duke Nukem 3D days when violence could still be colorful and light-hearted? It’s all Quake’s fault for starting the trend of everything looking like it’s made out of concrete and mud. The only modern shooter I can think of that’s remotely cheerful is the peerless Team Fortress 2, but it’s surrounded by visually boring grit-a-thons about soldiers who resemble breeze blocks and are about half as emotional. To summarize in a wrenchingly awful ’70s jive kind of way, I’d like a bit more clowning and a bit less browning.
Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw is behind weekly internet video series Zero Punctuation.