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| Tomorrow Comes Today : Hollywood Land? (11 comments )|
by: quixilver (5) | Posted in cluster FiringSquad Editors Challenge Round 1 Prelim 2
Posted 75 months ago ( edited 75 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
At least, that is what the highly paid marketing departments of the videogames industry would have us believe. A substantial amount of money is being poured into making gamers believe that whatever gaming experience they have experienced thus far is nothing more than an outdated technological farce, that the virtual reality the gamers are immersed in is nothing more than a digitally concocted lie, that us gamers screens are too small, our RAM's too little, our disk space too less, our processors too slow, our graphics cards too outdated. They are telling us that to find true digital fulfillment, to attain gaming nirvana, we will have to pour in more money than we could possibly imagine into upgrades to buy ourselves whatever new digital 'crack' that is on the market these days. It is even more saddening to see game developers openly being in cohorts with the hardware manufacturing industry in this brazen exploitation of this rapidly expanding industry.
Industry pundits proudly point out the facts when they make comparisons and draw parallels between the movie industry and the games industry, at how both seem to be converging and in some ways the videogames industry has surpassed Hollywood. Hollywood actors are increasingly lending their voice acting talents to the gaming industry, (Gun, Chronicles of Riddick etc.) as well as CG talent now being on level turf between the two industries.
Videogames have increased incredibly, both in scope and in depth. It is now common to games have moving soundtracks often provided by real orchestra's (Final Fantasy). Gone are the days of ugly pixels, photo-realistic textures and HDR lighting are the new black. Ugly, gimmicky cut-scenes have been replaced by eye-popping CG videos done on Hollywood standards, and sometimes exceeding Hollywood quality. The Final Fantasy games started this trend and now games such as the recent Marvel Ultimate Alliance features some truly stunning CG cut-scenes.
One major reason for this is that game development is now taken seriously and not merely as an extension to software development. Game budgets have been steadily on the rise, as well as making sure that each great game has its own distinct identity, look and feel (Darwinia, Okami, Ico).
It has to be agreed therefore, that some of the greatest videogames of our times, would not have been possible without the immense leaps and bounds that the technology has grown over recent years. It is reported that Epic presented 2 versions of Gears of War to Microsoft. One version was running on 256 RAM (on the Xbox 360) and another on 512 MB RAM. The difference between the two was so great that Microsoft opted to for 512 MB of RAM for the Xbox 360, primarily to run Gears of War in all its hi-res glory, a decision that cost them an additional not-so-cool one billion dollars! However, if Microsoft had not made that decision, Gears of War would not have been the technological masterpiece that it is today. The stunning visuals and overall stellar production value of the game has distracted many people from some of its flaws, such as the lack of control over the 'cover' system in the game, which, if included, would have added substantially more to the tactical depth of the game. Hence, if it were to be compared to movies, instead of being up there with Apocalypse Now, it will have to settle with being Platoon.
There are however, some things that need attention. What many fail to see is that the same shady practices that are rampant in Hollywood are now making their way into the videogames industry.
Big fat wads of cash are being spent on marketing a game and creating palpable amounts of hype about the game, employing all possible means, ranging from print media, TV ads, and extremely glamorous strip shows (the recently deceased E3). It is truly disappointing to see that many highly anticipated and aggressively marketed games have been strongly criticized for being released incomplete or even poorly tested with bugs that strongly undermine the gameplay. The marketing machines behind Neverwinter Nights 2 and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic had role-playing fans quivering with anticipation, but the sheer amounts of technical flaws and glitches marred the experience for many. Similarly, Prey, compared to the hype, turned out to be another disappointment of the year. This is a trait that is particular to Hollywood, where the money and effort spent on marketing certain movies has been greater than the substantial amount of money spent on making them, and the overall quality of the movie makes one wonder who in their right minds would have provided the millions, the time and the manpower to make the abomination on screen.
Instead, to cover up their shortcomings in game development, and to make greater profits as well as coerce consumers into buying expensive hardware, game publishers and hardware manufacturers simply tell the consumer that to play the game at its maximum potential and to enjoy it fully, the gamer might have to end up paying much more than the game itself cost.
The greatest selling game of all time, The Sims, simply would not stop selling. The open secret behind its phenomenal success was its brilliant (love it or loathe it) gameplay, not its graphics or sound. Everyone could play the Sims, and judging from sales, just about everyone did. The game did not require DX 10 Hi-def visuals or physics processing cards to make it enjoyable. They might have added to the experience, but would have hurt sales.
Some of the highest rated and best looking games on the PC over the past few years, such as World of Warcraft, Half-Life 2, and to some extent Doom 3, were released and could be fully enjoyed even by those whose PC's cost less than cars. The Half-Life source engine and Doom engine scale themselves expertly to be played out on many systems of varying power. These games did not force the gamers to chuck out half of the components in their systems and upgrade extensively to enjoy the game.
Besides that, games such as Doom and Half-Life can even justify the hardware requirements they desire of the user. Doom’s creepy atmosphere would have been impossible without the phenomenal lighting, HL 2’s physics engine made it possible for the gaming world to experience the joy that was the Gravity gun.
The high cost of playing certain games can be justified if the game has features which add substantially to the gameplay experience. A prime example of this is MMO's. Due to the widespread availability of broadband, the meteoric rise of MMO's has been seen. MMO's completely re-invent the whole gameplay mechanics of the genre and therefore, easily justify their monthly payments.
This economic surge has helped the videogame industry and videogaming in general transcend from a geeky hobby to a veritable cultural phenomenon. The world may have never witnessed the graphical brilliance nor the guttural satisfaction of brutally chain sawing and head stomping their enemies in the raw visceral treat that is Gears of War, nor would 7 million people cumulatively spend millions of hours playing World of Warcraft fanatically had it not been for the huge growth in the videogames industry. Videogames have truly evolved massively since the days of Pong and Tetris. It may even be true that perhaps the videogames industry would not have survived had it not been for its phenomenal economic growth over the past few years.
On the other hand, most mega-corporations involved in gaming are fighting with each other for supremacy, unfortunately, the only casualties are gamers.
An upcoming example of this consumer exploitation that will affect many gamers in the coming months is the Microsoft policy of allowing DirectX 10 to be Vista-exclusive. This will ensure that Microsoft will guarantee that any serious gamers will be paying much more money to play games than that spent on buying them, paying not only for a newly released bug-laden, overpriced OS, but also buying shiny new graphics cards.
It is puzzling to see the games industry often work in reverse without much resentment from the gamers. The next-gen consoles from both Sony and Microsoft are some of the most expensive consoles ever marketed. The companies claim that the high price tags are necessary for providing the consumers facilities that they have never experienced before. They expect the consumer to gladly sell their souls to the silicon deities that they would have us believe their new consoles are.
A closer, in-depth inspection of the state of the industry reveals that a tragic comedy of Shakespearean proportions is taking place.
The new consoles allow users to listen to music, watch movies, browse the net, and download stuff, and lastly, actually play videogames.
Other than playing the latest videogames, a 3 year old computer can accomplish the other various tasks that the new silicon behemoths seem so proud to be able to do.
On the other hand, a PC gamer will have to shell out incredible amounts of cash just to play a game at a quality that comes quite close to that offered by (relatively) much cheaper consoles by spending far greater amounts of cash.
Furthermore, the word ‘exclusive’ is now used in a White House spin speak context rather than its literal meaning. Besides a limited number of games (and that too can change anytime), due to extremely high development and advertising costs, games are now increasingly multi-platform.
In its strong struggle for survival, resulting in stellar success, the videogame industry and videogames have lost their identity. The crucial question is: Why do people play videogames in the first place?
The answer is simple: Escape. Videogames are perhaps one of the best forms of escape that a human can experience with the greatest amount of visceral treat, interaction (lacking in movies and TV) and greatest ease, with the exception of drugs. Videogames have always been that, a means of escaping the dreary, mundane reality that envelops and embraces us, and suffocates us in our daily lives.
We may be boring, uninteresting people in our real life, living pathetically repetitive lives consisting of an endless cycle of work-eat-sleep till we inevitably end up being fertilizer and worm food. But in a videogame, we can be fearless warriors out on a quest that will eventually save the world from destruction. One could be the emperor of Rome, a notorious criminal, a demented psychopath or a soldier.
It is this means of virtual escape which videogames provide that draws people to them, not DirectX 10 graphics or 7.1 surround sound. Sure, they add to the experience, but they are not its essence.
Instead, by limiting games to hardware and vice versa, developers and publishers seem to be forgetting that in their greed for large amounts of un-earned money in return for providing greater amounts of fake reality, they are essentially destroying the very essence of escapism of games.
Due to the unreasonably high cost of playing videogames at the recommended settings these days, the luxury to play videogames as they were envisioned by their creators can only be afforded by those who can afford HD compatible components and consistently upgrade hardware. It is really difficult to imagine escaping to a lush tropical virtual island to shoot things up without having to pay about as much as it would cost a real vacation to a tropical paradise. No matter how realistic a game looks, it will never beat the real thing, but it can create emotions and feelings, and give an experience that can leave fond memories and make the impossible seem possible, even enjoyable. Instead of creating games that few will be able to fully enjoy, developers sould strive to create games that can provide the intended experience today, not promise it tomorrow.
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