Modern video games strive so hard to deliver a Hollywood narrative but they really fail at innovating the actual gameplay. Despite all of the new hardware and physics, people really just buy the next Call Of Duty game for the new maps, updated graphics, and perks. We should be combining and interconnecting diverse game design principles into seamlessly expansive user experiences, but major publishers will refuse to change a game’s design as long as they can keep printing sequels for financial gain. And I don’t blame them, they’re corporations and corporations are optimized to minimize risk for the sake of maximizing gains.
In a recent interview with The Telegraph, famed Nintendo Game Designer and Producer Shigeru Miyamoto, ironically touched upon these points. In regards to other companies he lamented their sensible business strategies. “What the other companies are doing makes business sense,” he says. “But it’s boring. The same games appear on every system. At Nintendo we want an environment where game creators can collaborate and think of ideas for games that could have never happened before.”
It’s ironic because Nintendo is no stranger to milking the success of a sequel. Mario Kart itself has been remade a total of eight times, across 6 different platforms, over the span of two decades. Miyamoto is the engineer behind some of the longest running franchises in video game history but he’s still touted as a game innovator that works in opposition to the industry. It’s a praise that I’ve never understood.
However he also touched up some great points about game design versus narrative. “These younger game creators, they want to be recognized,” he sighs. “They want to tell stories that will touch people’s hearts. And while I understand that desire, the trend worries me. It should be the experience, that is touching. What I strive for is to make the person playing the game the director. All I do is help them feel that, by playing, they’re creating something that only they could create.”
Nothing pisses me off more than playing a game and then having my gameplay interrupted by a cinematic where the on screen action is more bad ass than the game I am playing. I should be doing all the cool shit, not the animation director. I can only imagine that Moyamoto felt the same way.
“When you play a game, one moment you’re just controlling it and then suddenly you feel you’re in its world,” Moyamoto says. “And that’s something you cannot experience through film or literature. It’s a completely unique experience.”
What drives me back to retro games, pinball, and core game series’ altogether is their basic no frills anchoring in solid game design. These same design underpinnings are felt in current games today and at some point; past Lvl 30, past another raid, past the final boss, and after the credit sequence you realize that you’re just playing a paper doll simulation in an FPS shooter.
Despite Moyamoto’s willingness to milk a cash cow, just like the major publishers, at least he always remembered that a narrative supports the game design and not the other way around.