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Where Are You Going, Gaming?

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A search for the heart of gaming

My sentiments here have been echoed thousands of times throughout the course of gaming's existence, at least over the past decade or so, so I apologize if it seems like this is rehashed. It's just how I feel, and I'm hoping that it connects somewhere along the way.

Sometimes I worry about gaming as I get older. I worry about what happens to the soul of it all as technology carries us further into the trappings of needing new gimmicks and needing new ways to convey old ideas. It's all Botox to hide our wrinkles. We're over 30 years old now, with accolades and mainstream acceptance under our belts and on our shelves, and we're looking for the next big thing, something that we can pass on to the next generation, like other passions and pastimes before us. Instead of focusing on what's at hand and how to tell stories or make entertaining experiences, we're hung up on buzzwords like 'immersion,' 'dynamic' and 'procedurally generated.' Our beloved titles of the past are pushed forward only for the sake of giving aging fans something to pay attention to at E3 and gripe about how much it's changed.
Not unlike what I'm doing right now. Griping. Bemoaning. Sentence structures forgotten in a wave of frustration and fear of what's happening to the gaming that I grew up with. Digression. Continuing.

I don't want you to think that I'm against any sort of technological progress, but as games go from handcrafted to factory-pressed construction, it worries me that the heart of it all will be burned out from the fires of streamlining and deadlines. I worry that the wonder is lost on the next generation as they're given annual titles to be tossed by the wayside as soon as next year comes around. Multiplayer titles are churned out in hopes of catching the next big MOBA/FPS/RTS wave and microtransactions to make sure that they'll stay profitable even if the game falls apart before the end of things. The success of 'Minecraft' has set off a host of imitators, people that prefer to 'let the fans tell their own story' rather than writing their own. While I love that sort of a canvas, I can't help but think how few truly memorable stories have been written and shown by developers in the past few years. Lore, yes ('Dark Souls' and 'Destiny' both have fantastic lore but no story to tell in it), but there's no storyteller spirit alive in gaming today.

Where are the Kojimas, the Spectors, the Sakaguchis and Garriots? Where are the people that will bring us not only a new world, but weave a tale that excites us and draws us into the world properly? Even with bare minimum plotlines, early NES RPGs had a wonder attached to them, and the SNES and PS1 games after them drew upon that with a fierce creative passion and brought that wonder into a new generation of technology. It feels like it all died after the sixth generation of consoles. Suddenly gaming was a place to make money and not create experiences.

Maybe I'm just typing this all as a grumpy gamer wearing his Club Nintendo shirt and with his DS open with 'Dragon Quest IX' happily occupying the screen. Maybe I'm just typing this as someone burnt out on the me-too multiplayer rush of the past half decade. Maybe I'm just typing this as someone refusing to believe that gaming can and should take a new form.

Maybe I'm just typing this with a tired soul and I want to go back to simpler days that had wonder attached to them by default, and no one seems to be making those games anymore.

Grumpy. I'm grumpy. That's all there is to it, and I know it, and it makes me all the more grumpy. And the more I focus on the crappier features of gaming today, the more I don't have to accept that we're still an industry in its infancy and there's so much more to come, because I don't want to face the fact that it could still get better because I'm convinced I've already seen the best.

Grumpy. Just...grumpy.

Aaron Waite is a grumpy gamer, but still takes time to play newer titles, if just to have new material to be grumpy about.

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