Best Of The Generation: The Biggest Trendsetters
Trends are inevitable in every form of entertainment. Something does very well and becomes amazingly successful and then everyone copies that in the hopes that the lightning will strike twice, so to speak. Gaming is no different when it comes to trends being set and this generation saw a whole host of games setting the bar for what would later become popular in the medium. For better or for worse, we don’t know, but these games are still monumentally important in the evolution of gaming.
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Our lovable team of misfits will now discuss which games they thought created the most important trends for this generation, which might even transpire into the next generation. Each game has done something so unique and innovative that it sparked widespread mimicking or just set the bar for what is done within the genre. Without further ado, let’s jump in.
Adam says: Portal was a small release in the Orange Box that popularised physics-based first-person experiences when it was released. Of course, there have been physics-based games before Portal, but Portal popularised the genre with its style and approach to game design, becoming a trendsetter for the generation. It was unique among its peers, with witty humour, a great antagonist in GlaDos and a cultural hot-pot of internet worthy memes. Portal became an inspiration for other game devs to develop physics-based puzzle first-person gamers in the indie scene, with even side scrolling variants making their way to the market. Portal is the standard for such games and is difficult to surpass. The game has intelligent writing, brilliant gameplay, it’s fun and addictive to play. Perhaps only its sequel Portal 2 can surpass it. However, it still remains the benchmark for games of its type, and that is a success in its own.
AG says: It might not have been the first to do it but Limbo is certainly the game that really showed us what one could do with a minimalist approach in crafting a game that was far more than the sum of its parts. A basic yet strikingly effective visual style, simple platforming mechanics and no clearly laid out plot all combined to make one of only a handful of games that I would consider to be near perfect. By keeping things simple Limbo created an experience where you appreciate the details, but also you are the one who fills in all the blanks. By projecting your thoughts onto the game the experience becomes your own. I see it as ground zero for excellent games such as Gone Home, Dear Esther and Journey. All somewhat natural progressions of this core design ideal and all games that have received some form of award. Limbo is the game that kicked off this minimalist movement and encouraged players to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. The fact that all was in silhouette worked doubly well. This is perhaps what initiated the absolute revival that the horror genre has seen in recent years with games that scare the bejeezus out of you by sticking to an absolutely minimalist approach that makes you, as the player, feel isolated and disempowered.
Gears Of War
Cavie says: Gears of War’s brown-grey environments – I’m not sure if it was the first game that did it, but I definitely think that it went a long way towards perpetuating the habit of making games gritty and ‘realistic’ with lots of browns and greys, and the only contrasting colour being that of bright hues (immulsion), skyboxes or blood. This was easily the most depressing trend of the current generation, with games just looking way too bland and ending up being choppy and uninspired experiences all for the sake of ‘gritty realism’ or whatever the marketing department likes to call it. On the other hand, you might argue that it allowed for games the likes of BioShock and Mirror’s Edge, with their unique visual styles, to really shine as examples of games that broke the mould when they released. And to their credit, Epic Games has been putting out consistently more visceral games that trade out the brown-grey exterior for something a little more colourful and robust. Still, not the current generation’s proudest moment but somehow one of the defining features of current generation offerings.
Alessandro says: Gears of War definitely wasn’t the first title to try snap to cover mechanics from a third person perspective, but it definitely was the first game to get it so right that the mechanic became a staple in literally every single third-person shooter, and sometimes action adventure title, that you can think of. Even the very first Gears of War title features an excellent and fluid cover system that allowed you to hide behind waist high walls and avoid the barrage of Locust bullets. The mechanic became so popular that it was later used in other notable third person titles, such as Spec Ops: The Line, Uncharted and even Splinter Cell.
Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Marko says: Back in the early days of gaming, shooters were almost exclusively set in the World War 2 era. This trend ran for so long that it was actually longer than the war itself. Along comes Call of Duty 4 with its modern take on warfare. This was so new and exciting that when I got the game for myself, I was so enamoured by it that I finished the campaign a combined total of 7 times. One of those times was on Veteran which was one of the most intense gaming experiences I’ve ever had. But I digress. After Call of Duty 4 blew the doors off with its innovative approach to first person shooters, everything started going in that direction. Games were cropping up that also featured the modern setting, but the trend grew so massive that the market is now oversaturated with these types of games. This was bound to happen eventually, however, because let’s face it, killing Nazis grew tired after a while and we were all yearning for something more.Call of Duty 4 started possibly the biggest trend in gaming history ever since Wolfenstein 3D introduced us to the World War 2 setting. For better or for worse, we don’t know, but what’s for certain is that it is here to stay.
Azhar says: There are many games that set an absurd amount of trends for this generation, whether it was Gears of War’s predilection for the now infamous “brown-and-grey” environments as well as its cover shooting, or even the little indie game Slender for its popularisation of minimalism in gaming. However, for me the absolute biggest trendsetter and most influential game was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The way it changed the industry is truly remarkable. It brought the death of the World War 2 genre, it hugely popularised modern warfare as a setting to the point that, by the end of the generation, a lot of us are now actually sick and tired of modern military shooters, it breathed fresh life into and revived the entire Call of Duty and shooter franchise and inspired every other game in its genre for years to come. Its introduction and/or popularisation of its famous perks system, multiplayer challenges, customisation and personal gear load-outs systems, ranking system and Prestige mode went on to become staples of the genre and an inspiration to all other games. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a true innovator, and was quite possibly Call of Duty at its absolute best. I played the multiplayer of this game more than any other shooter barring Counter Strike: Source and Battlefield 2, and still today I consider all it time well spent. For me, Call of Duty has never reached the same kind of peak as the original Modern Warfare again.
Rudolf says: I remember the first time I played through Modern Warfare – I was simply astounded by this new direction Call of Duty was taking. I’ve always been and still am a fan of first person shooters, but this one’s impact on the industry is visible even to the most absent-minded of deeply burrowed moles. It was something special at that time and I while I enjoyed Modern Warfare 2 even more; modern and first-person shooters aren’t that special anymore. It literally crawls out of the woodwork every year. I still like these games, but I honestly feel that we can go back to the Painkiller and Serious Sam time of shooters.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Peloma says: MW2 changed the way not just gamers but the entertainment industry’s view of videogames. The single player in itself as much as it was short it was just an adrenalin ride with some very good twists thrown in to just drive the action element. For a game that is known for its multiplayer component the single player was more talked about than the MP mostly because of that controversial “ No Russian” scene. One other impressive thing was Infinity Ward created the Ghost Riley character that said just a couple of sentences during the course of the game but has become such a huge fan favourite with the CoD fans. MW2 made single player in a military shooter significant and many developers have tried to recreate that, but have failed.
Trends were bound to happen in gaming. We cannot have pure, unique experiences for every game that gets released so developers saw fit to copy what has become popular. Some might argue that these games are the cause for some of the stagnation we have seen in the gaming landscape over the years, but regardless of that, these games were fundamental for how gaming would evolve into the powerhouse that it is today.