Opinion Style | Will They Invite Us To The Funeral?

In this short section I switch my own style to that of an opinion and give you a little peak on what my take is on this artic- wait. This is a whole separate article of its own. Hm.

Excuse the following article as I will talk directly to you for a moment. When starting Stinger Magazine I set up a series of strong rules that I would hold up as guidelines throughout each piece - one of them being that my opinion would not be present in them outside of a little extra snippet at the end. Yet when it comes to this one, I felt that I really wished to clear the air on what is going on with our beloved genre. If you’re not up for a short piece filled with a fine mixture of opinion and fact, don’t worry, the next real article should be up within a few weeks. Otherwise let’s celebrate my birthday by talking about the upcoming death of the Action Hack&Slash genre.

“It’s not a game-script. It’s a script”

Two sentences spoken by the new voice actor of Kratos, the former God of War, during a post-reveal interview signifying just how far it had sunk. Gaming is a medium that is constantly in motion, more so than many other art-forms. While most forms of art during their inception copy other forms - photography copying paintings and film being still images - games quickly found their own unique form with games like Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda and even games like Ninja Gaiden and Contra. But slowly and more steadily the medium started shifting, how and when it exactly started is hard to pin down but money is always the issue it seems. Now we live in an era where terms like “games as a service” and “episodic content” are a daily nuisance and during a post-reveal interview gameplay is not discussed but the emotion-range of the story is at the forefront. But why?

Trends are an easy identifier. It might be hard to forget but in the early 90’s every game was a spin on the Mario formula and the late 90’s saw many games trying to cash in on the success of Ocarina of Time. Believe it or not even our beloved genre had a moment in the spotlight where games wanted a piece of the Devil May Cry cake. But what set those trends apart from those we’re stuck in now is that they were still games by default, while the current trend - cinematic experiences - reach a far wider audience. Now we’ve all heard the story: don’t homogenize (meaning: make everything the same), but it’s hard for a creative studio to fight against an overlord that pays the bills who points at a graph chart comparing Last of Us sales to those of God of War: Ascension.
“But people still play God of War...nobody plays The Last of Us more than twice” - speaks the designer. “Sales numbers don’t lie” - utters the overlord “Make it happen”.

Yet it is exactly this mentality that is burying this niche genre. A loyal and steady consumer base is traded in for one that might not even buy into the trend as a new one has already arrived - shortsighted marketing. We lost Ninja Gaiden to this because it tried to appease with, as they called it, an eastern hamburger. Devil May Cry was lost trying to appease both audiences. And now the final one is lost trying to market to the mainstream. Let’s also not forget that making a nuanced action game takes talent and loads of time, combing over every ability and move to provide the best possible experience and allow for experimentation. While the cinematic experiences only require a straight line, a button that produces flashy moves and an ending that includes feelings that aren’t rage - as that is immature..right?

It all reeks of a quick cash grab which ironically ends in debt as a community has already moved forward to a new game. But this also leads to the biggest question I personally have while I look at the games that are being made in this generation and upcoming: “will we play these games in twenty years”? A piece of art - and yes games are art - exists to be analyzed and enjoyed forever. Even if it is a commentary on a certain time or event, it is timeless. A fun experience is bought and played once, but never afterwards. A great game with nuanced mechanics will be hunted down forever. Yet with games as a service and episodic content games are more and more becoming this ‘quick enjoyment’ in which a consumer buys a game and exchanges it for a new one every month to not only keep up with the trends - but also because there isn’t any other choice.
I will repeat the question again: what game released today will you play twenty years from now? Or will our grandchildren play forty years from now? Which title will set in motion their desire to hunt down the last remaining working Playstation 4 with a working copy of the game? Will it even function without its day one patch? How will he get his hands on the DLC?

It speaks volumes that the best games in each genre are not present in this generation and that the pillars of the Action Hack&Slash were unearthed in the early 2000’s on now ancient hardware. Then we made games to last and to be replayed.

To be replayed now, means we won’t buy our next piece of entertainment. 
And we can’t have that.

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