This rant is brought to you by a the recent news that the Syndicate series will soon be rebooted in a First-Person-Shooter title. Maybe you never played the Syndicate by Bullfrog productions. It is a tepid-quality isometric-view game of the 1990s that I found to be extremely fun and engaging, but the depth of story and lore lacking. Remember that last sentence, because it is important to the point I’m going to make.
Some would say that Syndicate was a sleeper hit. I don’t know, but I do know that I’m really disappointed that the Syndicate reboot is FPS, and not just because it bastardizes one of my favorite games from the past, but the concept insults my intelligence, and exposes the shallowness of the interactive entertainment industry and it’s apathy for delivering quality products.
I could start this discussion leading off with a thought around how FPS games seem to dominate the industry, speculate why (perhaps most modern game engines are built around the intention to play FPS and therefore the cost of producing one is negligible compared to the cost of making a game with new engines and mechanics, and something to the effect of low-brow American mainstream is where the dollars are at – hinting an intellectual slight against consumers of those games), and how such a limited choice of game types on consoles and PCs has allowed "social" and mobile games to make such tremendous gains in gamer attention at the cost of real social gaming: Think when you and your sister or cousin or neighbor from down the street finally saved the princess, found the varia suit, or defeated Gannondorf (yeah I said it).
Really, this Syndicate reboot is just a desperate attempt by EA to leech dollars off nostalgia-seeking players with minimal innovation or effort (minimal dollars in for maximum dollars out). This leads into a discussion how Indie developers are so (under)valued today since their primary intention isn’t to make money, but to make games that are fun. You see this same type of phenomenon in corporate America in every media publishing industry (newspaper, books, music, etc.): Mis-alignment of goals (money vs novel experiences) cause dissonance between consumer and developer/publisher. But the problem is cyclical and predicted easily: indie media sources create more and more value until they themselves become corporations and then become no longer aligned in goals with their consumer.
I don’t hate EA for doing this, I don’t hate Corporations (actually, I think both are doing what they should be doing), because it is their job to maximize it’s stockholder’s returns. Who I am really blaming in this mess is the consumer: The idiot who accepts that a game without any significant lore, background, or depth in story, a game whose only defining attributes are it’s core gameplay mechanics, can be reinvented as a First-Person-Shooter and still be called the same game. This idiot pays money for this heap of schlop and encourages the gaming industry to do it again and again so what you get is another game with a gun and ammo.
So for the non-idiots, the people who were done with most FPS after they finished Wolfenstein 3D or Doom, the people who are seeking something genuine and new, the thinking people – who creates video games for them if the mainstream industry all chase the easily won dollars of the cromagnon? The Indie developers. This is why the banal Angry Birds, the deceptively simplistic Minecraft, and sleeper hits like Demon’s Soul’s can dominate gamer’s time and the recorded history of great video games while "me-too" FPS will be consumed and defecated into the depths of kitsch waste where they belong. The financial returns on these titles isn’t great, and the development times are longer, the releases are sometimes buggier, and the communities built around these games are usually smaller, but the experiences of playing these games are richer, more memorable, and are generally more likely to be replayed because they are more unique.
I’ve held onto PC gaming for so long because I’ve believed in the those few remaining developers willing to take financial risks to create something worth my attention, and I’ve invested in console gaming strictly for a handful of titles from mostly indie developers, but the next generation of gaming is about making fools pay for experiences that they think are new, but are really just a gold-painted piece of shit. Those pieces of shit will live on in expensive consoles and will need expensive video cards, so that you can shoot bigger and more realistic guns from a first-person viewpoint. While something with 10% of the processing power but 50% of the cost of production will dominate mobile and browser based games, squarely leaving truly inventive games laying with the dinosaurs.