In a previous post I spoke a little about the current state of the games industry and how I felt that big business, whilst lucrative, was creating all kinds of problems for the consumer. Truth is that those same sentiments can be put towards all facets of the media and entertainment industries.
Let me take a moment to say this: I don’t begrudge people wanting to make money. I don’t even begrudge people wanting to make a shit load of money. It’s not really my bag, I’m content with a roof over my head and food in my belly, but we live in a capitalist society where in the briefest terms money equals survival, success, security and status.
What I do begrudge is art being taken away from artists. I begrudge having music, film and games industries where everything is decided in the marketing room by a bunch of people in suits who only judge things by dollar signs. What I begrudge is the very idea of creativity being boiled down to numbers, churning out bland work after bland work with no rhyme or reason just so some fat cat can have all the lasagne.
In theory, trying to appeal to as broad a demographic as possible seems like a good idea. More people will enjoy it and spend money on it.
However, in practice, everything becomes mediocre. Most people will grant that it’s kind of okay, money will be made but the whole event will have a big cloud of “meh” hanging over it. I personally would argue that being mediocre is worse being bad. Something can be bad but still ironically enjoyable, and because bad is subjective there is a discussion to be had. There is no discourse to be had in mediocrity.
Take someone like Justin Bieber, for example. Everything about his public persona and his music is decided in business meetings. Lyrics are focus tested. Auto-tune is applied and abused because someone arbitrarily decided we would all rather have auto tune than listen to a talented vocalist. And make no mistake- love him or hate him, he is a talented vocalist. The hate directed towards doesn’t come from a lack of talent or any kind of personality qualms, it comes from everything about him screaming “corporate puppet”.
The same is true in films. I reviewed The Conjuring 2 (James Wan, 2016) not long ago and proclaimed how shit-makingly scary it was, but evidently both it and the previous installment could have been scarier. On the Talk is Jericho podcast, Andrea Perron (a member of the family on whom The Conjuring was based on) spoke about how Wan had wanted to keep it faithful to the alleged events but the producers kept making script changes in the fear that the film would be too scary for audiences. But fuck me, as a total horror hound who found both Conjuring films terrifying, I want to see the things they left out! I want to see the director’s original vision, get a glimpse of an experience carefully crafted specifically to a horror audience instead of a broad one.
In truth though, I do have to single out the games industry as being worse for it than the others. Even the most cynical of music producers would admit that there is money to be made from the traditional notion of a bunch of guys with instruments in a room making noise until something sticks. Film executives will still occasionally let a director’s pet project slip through the cracks. Because every once in a while you’ll get a money-making machine like Biffy Clyro or a cult success like Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Edgar Wright, 2010). I struggle to think of a single example for the games industry, however.
See, I don’t like the idea of a marketing department having input in art, but I understand the necessity for it. I just think that sometimes they need to know when to back off and let something be what it is. And the music and film industries have been around long enough that the establishment understands this.
Well, sometimes they do.
My point is that for all the studio interference, we still have clearly defined genres and a recognition that there is a need to cater to niche audiences every once in a while. The games industry has yet to understand this.
Every major triple-A video game of the last 5 or 6 years has been a clone or either Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. Sure, mechanics are different, art assets are different, but you can see the business models and other influences permeate throughout. Micro transactions, yearly editions that always feel incomplete, everything being gun metal grey or dog shit brown, pretensions of being “edgy” but done in a safe way, it’s all there, even down to the general attitude of “fuck you” directed at the audience.
I love the Mass Effect trilogy, but by the end it might as well have been COD in space. I used to love Final Fantasy until they tried to make it into a weird, action thing with little to no RPG elements.
In fact, Final Fantasy developers Square Enix, someone really needs to call you out on your shit. After recently “taking a risk” on some traditional RPG titles they have decided they will be pushing to publish more of them. They were surprised that a traditional RPG with turn based combat was successful even though that is what they built their fucking company on. Who decided they weren’t making money anymore? They were your bread and butter for Dog’s sake!
Although I will give them credit for taking a chance on Life is Strange, I just wonder what kind of moron decided that one of the most popular video game genres around wasn’t a money maker anymore.
There’s very little in the way of middle ground in triple-A gaming. It’s either soulless shooter or simple puzzle games. Someone even managed to fuck up Tetris. How do you fuck up Tetris?
It’s frustrating because we finally have systems that have brought us closer than ever to the full potential of gaming as a medium and nobody is willing to take advantage of it, instead going the safe option and ripping us all off in the process.
So that is why I have taken my money and given it to smaller developers instead. Because they are the ones doing exciting and interesting things with the medium.
Most recently I have been playing Toby Fox’s Undertale and I honestly believe that it is the best thing to happen in gaming since Resident Evil 4. A simple graphic style belies a plot that is genuinely moving and gameplay that seems familiar, yet feels completely new at the same time.
The basic premise is that it is a turn-based RPG where you can befriend all of the monsters, and from there it springboards to become something greater than a £5 game has any right to be. It truly transcends the “video game” label to become something… I don’t know. It’s not something that words can adequately describe. It’s best experienced.
Because that’s what Undertale is. An experience unlike anything that has come before, with multiple endings and multiple choices on how the story turns out. But the choices and outcomes actually feel like they MATTER.
Just recently I finished a True Pacifist run (which involves not killing anything and befriending every major character in the game) and.. Well…
Without spoiling anything, I think I got about 20 seconds into the final boss fight before I started bawling and didn’t stop until the credits ran.
THIS is what the mainstream games industry is missing.
Undertale made a point. In truth, it got to me, right into my heart and tugged on it until it broke.
Big budget, committee-created titles with full on 3D graphics up the wazoo might make all the money, but with Undertale I was reminded what it means to have heart and soul. And that’s worth more than any price tag.
You may think I’m overstating this. All I can say to that is that you should play it for yourself. I challenge anyone to finish a Pacifist run and not cry like a baby.
And if you can do a Genocide run after that Pacifist ending… Then you sir/madam are a FUCKING MONSTER! HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO GOAT MAMA!? 😥
Anyway, I think the general theme I’m going for is that art has the power to change the hearts and minds of others. Instead we use it to take their money. When you look at it like that doesn’t it just seem fucked up?
So thanks for reading my little rant. Today’s music choice… fills you with determination. 😛
Until next time my lovelies ❤