Last week, in an interview with Edge magazine, Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami said, “We only need one console. Why do I have to make two versions of a game? And when Xbox One was first announced it had lower specs than PS4, but now they’re almost identical.” Considering the idea of a “console war” has been with the industry since the “bit war” days, and Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have gone to great lengths to distinguish themselves from and disparage their opponents, it’s kind of a bold statement to make. And, perhaps predictably, the comments on the Edge article, as well as on sites like IGN and The Sixth Axis, are filled with polite and less-than-polite disagreement with Mikami.
As the years go by, I’ve noticed something strange and terrible happening. The amount of time I have to relax gets steadily smaller, and the amount of time I have to spend on “necessary” things like college and homework and friends keeps growing. A busy (and getting busier) schedule doesn’t always leave time for gaming, a hobby that prides itself on breadth of content. Many days, there simply isn’t time to play games, and when I do get time it’s usually right at the end of the day when I have to convince myself that I won’t regret going to bed late this time. I’ve found that larger, more complicated games that require the juggling of a number of long-term goals are harder to maintain on a schedule that doesn’t allow for gaming on a regular basis. Over the summer, I dove into Skyrim again. At first, I put as many hours into as I could, but once classes started up, the days I got a chance to play became more infrequent. The urge to play dwindled as I knew that the simple act of reorienting myself in the world and what I was doing would take up time. So to all the people who feel like that pesky thing called life too often gets in the way of gaming, here are the four game types that I’ve found work best on a busy schedule.
Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead was a perfect storm of quality, timing, and brand. Taking the adventure game genre’s focus on narrative, but (mostly) getting rid of the item collecting and puzzle solving, The Walking Dead provided an intriguing combination of storytelling and gameplay. Depending on your responses, conversations with characters affected your relationship with them. Decision making was a core game mechanic where your choices could have irreparable consequences for the characters. It felt like everything you said and did could have an effect on what happened in the story. Its flawed, yet relatable, characters and permanent consequences made for an absolutely engrossing experience. Add to all of that a brand name that, even now, is growing as a pop culture phenomenon, and Telltale found itself with one of the biggest surprise hits of 2012, raking in both critical acclaim and cash. Now, nearly a year after The Walking Dead‘s conclusion, Telltale is back with their latest episodic adventure game, The Wolf Among Us. Its debut episode, entitled “Faith,” is a perfect combination of story, style, and gameplay, and begins a series that has an incredible amount of potential.
It’s hard to argue that Batman isn’t the reigning king of superheroes at the moment. Batman has situated himself as the most successful superhero across nearly every medium. Not only does he have four monthly comics that he stars in, he’s also the most successful movie superhero with The Dark Knight trilogy; Batman: The Animated Series is often considered a landmark in animated television; and, not least of all, the two Batman: Arkham games are widely considered to be the best superhero video games ever made. Not that the Arkham games are up against stiff competition. Besides Arkham, the game most likely to be offered as the best superhero game is Spider-Man 2 and that’s just because web-swinging around the city in that game is so incredibly awesome. But there is another superhero that I think deserves his time in the video game spotlight. His game shamelessly steals from Arkham and it probably missed out on a final level of polish before it was shipped, but, in the end, Captain America: Super Soldier is a worthy contender for most fun superhero game.
The AAA game industry isn’t known for taking risks. Game budgets are so large now that even games that sell millions of copies are sometimes considered failures (knock that off, Square Enix). So most major game releases try to stick to, either, what’s popular at the time (shooters right now, particularly those of the military variety), or established IPs. This fear of risk-taking has left the AAA gaming world bereft of interesting or strange titles that could truly harness the technical prowess that AAA game budgets provide. Below are four experiences I want to see made with AAA graphics and scope. These ideas are incomplete as game designs but its the core idea of each that I want to see in a game.