(The following free-form editorial deals with both games and other forms of entertainment, but mostly deals with videogames)
I know it's the new in-thing to be pessimistic and cynical about everything, but I honestly believe that when it comes to TV, games, movies, and even books (to a lesser extent), we really are in a new golden age of entertainment.
To get the negative out of the way, yes it is true that there are some real problems in Hollywood and in the games industry. Yes, Hollywood relies far too heavily on nostalgia and the sheer volume of retreads, remakes, sequels, and movies based on books is disheartening, I won't deny this. The same thing can be said about Television in many ways; sure we've got crap TV out there like reality shows and other non-entities bred just of laughing at common folk with more dreams than talent. At the same time we're also getting some outstandingly great movies and TV like Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, The Marvel Cinematic Universe, A Quiet Place, and various other great films.
In the games industry, we have other bad trends such as non-game 'activities' on your phone that push for you to spend money daily to keep playing, companies like EA and Activision-blizzard are homogenizing their stuff and utilizing Free-to-play nonsense to maximize profits while putting in the least amount of work, and steam is FULL of shovelware and other trash and I think that's just the worst thing ever. However, there's a LOT of great stuff coming out from many different sources, and in the end it's up to you how you perceive the overall state of the industry.
As I said, EA and Activision-Blizzard and Ubisoft and various other companies such as Konami are milking gamers for all they're worth or generally disrespecting their audience with microtransactions and loot boxes lifted from mobile games, and this sucks bad. It's easy to hate on Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed or literally anything EA publishes, but people need to take a step back and realize that there's more to the industry than just homogenous samey shooters and generic open world sandboxes and iterative yearly sports game updates calling themselves sequels. While last gen may have been bad for a distinct lack of alternative genres and indies until its second half, with the big publishers chasing trends in a quest for pure profit, things have gotten a lot better this generation, I feel.
There are issues, no doubt, I'm not going to pretend that everything is peachy and we should all gather around a bonfire and love everything like hippies; hell, I just watched EA's E32018 presentation and got this overarching sense of dread deep in the pit of my stomach for how boring it all was. But with that said, the bad is heavily outweighed by the good, and even if you hate literally every game with microtransactions or lootboxes or generic gameplay mechanics or any other thing you personally hate, there's always going to be something for you.
Personally, I avoid sports games, most racing games, first person shooters, most generic action games, Real-Time Strategy games, simulators, mobile games (like cellphone games), anything Free to Play, and pretty much everything that's got PVP modes, many RPGs, most fighting games, pretty much everything that's only good on PC, and most stealth games. That's a lot of stuff completely cleaved off my potential gaming pie, and yet I'm still so inundated with games that I'm struggling to keep up with the sheer quality and quantity of games that have been coming out over the past few years.
Even if you only like 5% of all the games out there, you'll still find plenty to keep you busy. Even if you only have one console – no matter the console, even Xbox One for as much as I tend to disparage it – you will have plenty of options, and there will always be something out there catered directly to you.
We're not in the age of games where everything is an FPS or a modern warfare game. Sure, everything's trying to get Battle Royale stuff in there and recently everything was pushing procedurally generated maps (Something I personally dislike), but even with that said there's so many great games coming out. Even if you cut all the things you don't like out of your potential purchases, there's so much variety and quality at every level of development and coming from all sources around the world that you'd be a fool to say there's nothing good.
Take 2017/2018 for example. Last year had an absolutely astounding year for successful, highly rated games across a variety of genres and this year is following it quite well. Ignore all the shitty business practices ruining stuff like Call of Duty or Star Wars Battlefront or even Middle-Earth Shadow of War, and you still have absolute gems such as Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and God of War. Those are three games in contention for Game of the Year and maybe even game of the generation, and all three of them came out within a 15 month period of one another.
On top of that, there are so many unique, original games out there that are actually doing something new, exploring new ground, making gamers think, and exploring new genres and settings. Nintendo had a ballin' year with the above mentioned games as well as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Skyrim on Switch, Splatoon 2, ARMS, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and a host of great indies such as Golf Story and Snipperclips. Sony had an equally great year with stuff like Nioh, NieR: Automata, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Yakuza 0, the Shadow of the Colossus Remake on PS4, and another group of outstanding indies across the board.
Yeah, it's easy to get lost in the hate for Call of Duty's loot box bullshit and it's the worst to see Star Wars Battlefront held hostage behind those same lootboxes, but I don't think there are any lootboxes in any of those mentioned games, and they're all unique in some way or done with such polish it's hard to hate them.
I also understand that people HATE remakes and remasters and HD collections, but I have to admit that those games are some of my favorites to play because it gives me an excuse to return to old favorites in spite of being overwhelmed by all these fresh choices. I'm sitting here with stuff like Ni No Kuni 2, NieR: Automata, and a dozen other games from the last year or so sitting on my shelf unplayed, but I couldn't help but return to Dark Souls Remastered to play that as soon as I could. I've not felt so much happiness as when I put Skyrim Special Edition in my PS4 for the first time (I literally took a week off work to play it). Are these games better than they were on last gen consoles? Should I be giving Bethesda or FromSoft or Sony or Nintendo or Square-Enix my money again when I have perfectly functional versions on the old console? Probably not, but I did and I don't regret it.
Why? Because in today's gaming marketplace I'm so inundated with quality options that the only way I can justify returning to old favorites is if I get a new copy of the game, spend money on it, or get trophies out of the deal. I've played Final Fantasy VII a dozen times all the way through but I couldn't help but go back on PS4 for the trophies, as a prime example. Sure, these games aren't drastically changed from their original forms and that apparently pisses some people off, but getting old favorites with even marginal changes is enough to get me excited for these old games as if they were brand new. I get to experience that joy of discovery once more even if the only change is that now the game has better loading times and volumetric god rays.
I don't mind that Dark Souls is still a little janky and that I'm being charged for this game a second time, the experience of going through it with friends who have all used this remaster as an excuse to play through it again has made the game one of my all time favorites. The same effect was gained when Bloodborne came up as a free PS+ Game back in march, any excuse to revisit a game is a good reason, because there's so much quality out there right now that just saying 'I like this game, I'd like to play it again' honestly seems like it's not a good enough reason anymore. Not when I could be playing all these new games and new experiences.
Clearly I'm not the only one who feels this way, but with the way the internet has been so toxic lately has really doused the fires of passion I have for gaming. It takes so much effort to keep myself positive when all I'm hearing are complaints about how Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze shouldn't cost full price when it's a remaster or how Dark Souls Remastered is a rip off because it's only marginally better than it was last time we got it. I don't like this, and it seems that the toxic mentality is spread across all mediums and all genres, and that sucks.
Like I said, there's so much good out there that it baffles me that people could bitch about gaming or filmmaking or television. I know I mostly talked about videogames (with E3 being this weekend it's been where my heart has been vacationing), but the same arguments apply to both mediums and TV is very similar to movies.
The point really does just boil down to the fact that there's so much hate out there despite how much there is to love. Even if you hate all the bullshit nonsense we're getting from some film studios and game publishers, the reality is that you don't have to play those games or watch those movies. You don't need to watch Justice League If you don't like what Warner Bros did to the DCEU. You don't need to play Star Wars Battlefront II if you don't like that you have to buy lootboxes to unlock the heroes you want to play. You don't need to watch The Big Bang Theory if you don't like that sort of thing. Yeah, it sucks that they may have messed with your favorite franchise or aren't representing you right, but from an entertainment standpoint there's just too much good to be bogged down by the things that suck.
You don't have to let the hate flow through you, you don't have to be cynical or pessimistic or overly critical, and you don't have to be a doomsayer. You chose to be like that. You chose to ignore all the good to focus on the bad. You chose to prioritize negative things over positive things. You chose to let the bad things ruin the good, and by that measure you are the problem here. It sucks that big companies are doing terrible things, but by letting them ruin your gaming and by others actually giving them money and making their practices profitable, that's on you and gamers as a whole.
I think one of the most interesting elements of all of this is the whole argument about whether games are art or not, and I think that they are just as eligible to be seen as art as films are. Yeah, there are the big blockbuster games that sell millions of copies like Uncharted and Call of Duty that are well polished but otherwise don't really do much to stand out, but then there are also other, more personal games and movies out there that clearly DO have something to say and therefore are art.
Get Out was a deep, cutting social commentary on race relations – even positive ones – and it made hundreds of millions at the box office and got a bunch of Oscar nominations (and even a win for best original screenplay.) That was a film out of hollywood, but you can't tell me it wasn't also art. What about Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice? That game was an ambitious title about the effects of mental disorders on a person masquerading as an action game; you can't tell me that's not art.
Hell, even something like Dark Souls or Bloodborne are clearly art, and I don't just mean from an aesthetic viewpoint. Those games are specifically tweaked to make the player feel a certain way, to have that sense of dread throughout, and therefore have things to say about the nature of gaming as a whole and the power of hope and desire. Don't even get me started on NieR: Automata (What a mind-fuck that is.)
Sure, many of the most successful games and movies are made exclusively to be titillating by making you laugh or get your heart racing with a cool and empowering action scene, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. We're getting big dumb action stuff, but we're also getting deeper, artsy, meaningful stuff as well. As long as we're seeing both sides of the spectrum on all axes, then you will always have the choice to support the artsy stuff or shut your brain off and watch the boom-boom.
No matter what, the decision is in your hands. That is the key element, here.
You could chose to play games or watch things you like and not support games or other media you don't like, but instead are focusing too much on bitching and whining and ruining it for the rest of us.
There's a lot to love no matter how picky your tastes. If you only like esoteric retro-styled indie platformers, then there's something out there for you. If you only like arthouse cinema and introspective character pieces, there's something out there for you. If you only like blockbuster cinema or Call of Duty, there's something out there for you.
No matter what you like, there's plenty to be happy about, and that makes today's film and gaming scene better than it ever has been. I cut out about 75% of all potential games and am only interested in a few genres and styles, yet I'm still so backlogged with quality games that I'm having a hard time playing them all.
If you can't find something great to play or watch, that's on you. If you're too busy being cynical or hateful because a thing disappointed you or you don't like how someone is handling their business, you have the choice to not support it.
So are we living in a golden age of gaming? I think we are. I'd say things have never been as good as they are now despite the crap we have to deal with. Even with lootboxes and predatory free to play models and terrible monetization, I still feel that there's too much variety, too many options, and too many great games coming out free of those practices to let the bad drag us down. I do truly feel that the medium as a whole has never been as strong and will continue to improve as long as we don't go back to what it was like last gen when every game was shamelessly chasing trends.
What do you all think?