Gaming Like A Sir: What Gives You The Next-Gen Tingles?
I remember feeling awed in 2007, I hope I’m about to be thrilled again.
Gears Of War, Kameo, Modern Warfare, Crysis, and Half-Life 2: Episode 2. That’s what pops up in my head when I think about the proverbial “Next-Gen”. I have a story about each game and how it wowed me, but mostly it was that each game did something I had never experienced before. When each was over I felt a genuine sadness at the ending of our time together. I know I was younger, and I recognise that things shouldn’t be the same as you progress and mature, but I’d still like to feel it again.
Gamers get to experience a unique cycle in the progression of our art. Every few years, once technology has boomed ahead, a new generation of consoles ushers in the new era in gaming.
I might be romanticising the experience but the truth is that I was too young to appreciate its significance on an industry-wide level when I was younger, and I enjoy looking around at the slowly changing landscape and savouring the ride. This is exciting stuff, I have no idea what the future holds.
In no other industry is there such a defined leap forward every few years. Film effects get better and 3D claws its way into public acceptance but the experiences remain fairly static.
It might be the rampant fanboy inside but I do believe gaming experiences a far greater shift forward every cycle than other art forms. It is one of the few benefits of being a relatively young industry.
The result is that as we get closer to the end of the year, and nearer to the release of the PS4 and Xbox 720, we collectively hold our breaths for what the future brings. Which got me thinking… what am I actually hoping for?
The thought actually gave me pause, what do I want? I know it seems awfully mid-life-crisissy to have these thoughts but it’s an interesting mental exercise. I want better graphics, kinda. Frankly I’m impressed with current generation hardware, taking into account that I game on a DirectX11-capable PC. New hardware holds very little appeal to me.
So with hardware perks set aside, what do the new consoles offer me? So, my thoughts turned to games…
Maybe the hardware will simply allow new experiences? Then I thought about BioShock Infinite, and how fresh and exciting its world feels. I thought about the combat and the story and Elizabeth, then I blacked out and woke up holding a cuddly, furry and adorable baby animal. Half in each hand.
So insanity aside, I’m sufficiently excited for current generation games that I find it difficult to assume everything will get better once we have new hardware.
I don’t particularly care for the new Share button on the PS4, although I’m sure it appeals to many streamers and YouTube Nifflers. So again, what am I waiting for?
I went online and read a few feuds between fanboys. I enjoy watching fanboys fight. It’s like watching sport. I pretend that I care about the “fairness” of the game and that I’m all for good sportmanship and dignity, but when somebody gives concise, vicious and altogether brilliant trollogic, on the outside I remain stoic, but on the inside I feel more like:
BOOOYAH! In. The. Face.
It’s a cool feeling. It’s nice to feel like part of a group, even if it is a meaningless thing and admittedly at the expense of others, it gives a sense of camaraderie.
So at this point I paint a bleak picture of the future, there is little to look forward to except perhaps the experience of looking forward to it with other like-minded people. Depressing.
But consoles are ultimately tools for developers to use, and it will be the creativity and artistry of the developers that determine a generations success. So I looked more closely at the games that are being teased, I read and watched and somewhere along the way I started to feel the tingle. It was gentle, but it was there. The tingle of infinite possibility and the butterfly’s of excitement. It’s basically the flu, but a good kind of flu. Like being in love.
So yes, in the games I found at least the beginning of excitement. Cyberpunk 2077, sci-fi, open-world, mature- themed RPG made by the people who made The Witcher 2. I’ve known about it for ages, obviously, but I looked at it again and realised my mistake. It is not the console that matters, it is entirely the experiences crafted for it that creates its value.
The developers are using the improved technology to craft something we’ve never had before – density. The previous generation was all about the size; bigger, better and more badass. The technology let us go big so we went big. And admittedly, it was largely fantastic. *ba dum tss*
Now however, like with nuclear power, our reach exceeds our grasp. We have more than enough power so now the focus must come down to the manipulation of that power. Mastery over a craft rather than crafting bigger and more bloated experiences. I turn a silent, disappointed and heartbroken eye to Assassin’s Creed III, who can’t return my gaze and is fidgeting constantly. Like a Ritalin-fueled child whose gone off his meds.
Assassin’s Creed III does give me the perfect example of the kind of end-of-generation bloat that I’m tired of. A game like Sleeping Dogs is another perfect example. We have grown so comfortable in our current generation and so adept at pulling together what have become “standard features” in games that games like Sleeping Dogs become possible. It is just a porridge. A well-cooked, deliciously spiced, but ultimately unremarkable in its sheer blandness. Still it says something positive about the industry, when our less hyped or overlooked games can be so big, so polished and so tight, we know we’ve finally come to the end.
It is time for the new, and in the new I hope for progress in an area outside of simply graphics or gameplay. I want some density.
It is the density of the worlds in Arkham City or The Witcher 2 that brings them to life. Not their size. This led me to my mini-epiphany. I’m not supposed to be excited yet. If you get excited too soon it can only lead to disappointment because that excitement is based on unwitting and ill-informed misconceptions. Only when the consoles are in hand, and game releases are around the corner, will I get excited.
When Cyberpunk and Watch Dogs are almost upon me, I will feel the tingle. When games are announced that do things I’ve never seen before, and when the worlds I presented with are deeper than anything I’ve seen, then I will catch the fever.
Until then I’m going to close my eyes, dream of big things, and enjoy what is already on the way. Bioshock Infinite, Starcraft Heart of the Swarm and Tomb Raider are coming.
I need not think about the future until I have conquered the present.