Saturday, 30 November 2013

Gaming fads

Gaming like Hollywood has it's phases.  I never really noticed it when I was younger but looking back it was clear that Mario for instance sparked a huge number of platform clones.  Sonic the hedgehog spawned it's own copycats and basically any new property that was a hit ended up creating a string of knock offs and a few hits that would become popular in their own right.
This would go on to create many platformers
This kind of thing happens all the time in the media.  When Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone came out to wide spread critical acclaim, studios went out of their way to find other children's books that had been popular and turn them into films.  Percy Jackson and the lightning thief, Lemony Snickets and more had all been made to try and capitalise on the series mega success worldwide. 

Gaming is very similar and I first noticed it during the days of Medal of honor Allied Assault, a great game for it's time because of the multiplayer.  Obviously Medal of honor was a success anyway due to it's prior games on the consoles but none of these had ever captured the interest of so many gamers.  Allied assault was the game that got people talking and word of mouth really helped to sell the series.  The Normandy beach landing was a particular high spot of the campaign and it's obvious the game was heavily drawing upon Saving private Ryan for it's level design and campaign structure.  Entire levels where based on scenes in the movie such as the sniper level in the ruined town in the rain.

Allied assault got the ball rolling, but it was Call of Duty that really started the WW2 fad in the mainstream gaming media.  COD as it would go on to be known became a truly multi million dollar hit for infinity ward and set the bar for first person shooters everywhere.  This game then started the brief war between EA and Activision over who could have the most successful WW2 franchise, which ended up with Activision winning as COD 2 and it's console only sequel COD 3 would prove.  Several other companies would go on to make their own WW2 games in numerous genres and for a time their was something of a boom in the genre, a golden time for myself being a major WW2 enthusiast.
MOHAA looks like ass now but was awesome when it launched
Despite the success and popularity of the setting, the media and gamers became somewhat jaded by it's success and began to want a new setting.  Activision and Infinity Ward would answer this with their next hit, Call of Duty Modern warfare.  It was even bigger than the original and continues to this day to be a major best seller in the shooter genre although these days it's sharing that spotlight with the resurgent Battlefield series and may look to be finally losing it's shine after close to or on a decades worth of dominance in the genre.

After the modern setting though came a new theme, zombies.  We have all seen the films, plotted out our perfect survival strategy and probably even imagined having to make that painful decision to put a loved out of their misery from a zombie bite.  Yes the shuffling undead are now the top dog of the industry with many, many games building on it's popularity.  I'm not sure when the zombie fad became so big in gaming, whether it was Left4dead or Call of duty zombies but either way it was a incredibly popular.  Hell it could have started before either of those titles but they are two of the more mainstream titles to have found great success in their own right.

Now I know some of you will say the zombie progenitor so to speak would be the likes of Resident evil but lets face it, Resi 1 had zombies but was more of a monster menagerie game and the sequel again had less emphasis on surviving the hordes of undead and more about killing lickers, tyrants and other large boss monsters.  The zombies in resident evil never pose much of a threat and are easily avoided most times anyway.  Zombies have for some reason become the big thing in gaming, even now with the launch of the next generation of consoles we see a new Dead rising game with more to come in 2014.
Yeah because we needed zombies in our wild west game.....
Other big games that had zero link to the undead even had modes that featured the horde.  Red dead redemption had it's undead nightmare add on.  Yakuza dead souls and obviously Call of duty World at war had them in know...Zombies!  There is of course some fun to mowing down hordes of undead people or managing to survive in the apocalypse as such so yeah the appeals there, but how much longer does it have to go on?

Personally I think much like modern warfare and WW2 shooters, the zombie theme has had it's day in the sun.  The best zombie game has already been made and it's called the Walking dead season 1.  Unlike every other zombie game that focuses on the gore and shooting, Walking dead features characters, depth and tough choices throughout it's five part story.  You actually like the characters in the game and want them to survive even though you know some of them wont make it.  I find it hard to see any other game surpassing it really.  I know independent creations such as DayZ which has become popular because of it's real human interaction, could be counted as better due to the unpredictable nature of the players, but I think those moments are fleeting and never quite as memorable as the relationship between Lee and Clementine.

I don't think the zombie genre should be stopped of course, much like my favourite setting new games come out every year, just in smaller numbers.  I really think it's time the science fiction genre get a go as the top dog.  Star citizen has certainly created a buzz and with the new set of EA created Star Wars games coming out for the next decade along with Mass effect 4, we just need a major developer to give us a brilliant sci-fi shooter to take us forward.


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