“I cant believe I’m about to say this – I’ll never work in this industry again – but in the mainstream space I really haven’t seen a whole lot of progress. It seems like we’re getting more finely-tuned, prettier versions of games we’ve been playing for years.” – Warren Spector
Ingenuity is rare in the world of video games in this age of sequels and rehashes. When the NES rolled around, gaming was in its Genesis and ideas were plentiful. As Mario became a hit, companies followed the popularity and platformers flooded the market. The Super NES came out, and RPGs flourished with the extra cartridge space. Square and Enix dominated the market as platformers were still being refined into perfection, and soon companies jumped on the latest trend.
With the introduction of 3D gaming from the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, every previous genre had the chance to have a new start, for better or worse, in the third dimension. Adventure games especially exploded as collect-a-thon platformers were released in excess as a way to establish a mascot for Sony’s new console. Following that generation up was, again, an era of improvements. The graphics looked better, and suddenly action games became huge. Platformers, RPGs, adventure games, among the rest, had already made the jump to 3D, so now was the time to perfect things, as well. Finally, last generation spawned the flood of shooters, open-world games, western RPGs, simulators, and about everything else you can think of. It’s not like any of these genres were new this time around; it was just that the basic ideas from years before had been redefined over and over, and the surge of gaming into mainstream entertainment caused a lot of old ideas to become.
However, as Warren Spector said, nothing today in the industry is new. Almost every game you see today, especially from AAA companies, is just the same old game with a new coat of paint. The Witcher 3, while a great game, is the same open-world RPG that you’ll find on the skeleton of Skyrim and Watch_Dogs. These games on the surface, and even deep down, are radically different and it may seem blasphemous to even think that they are similar, but at the true core, all of these games are open-world RPGs where you travel around, level your character up, and complete quests. True, untouched ideas are hard to come by today.
The exception to this, though, is the indie scene. Last generation was the first generation where the people that were raised on video games were old enough to create their own games, and with the breakthrough marketplaces of Steam, PSN, Xbox Live, and Nintendo eShop, developers were given extremely easy ways to get their game out to the world. In some aspects, this is just continuing the problem of over-saturating the market with games everyone has already played in one form or another. On the other hand, wading through these waters will reward players with some truly unique experiences. Last year, a small game called Undertale came out of no where and redefined the RPG genre, causing surprise universal acclaim overnight and holding a place on many Game of the Year lists. This year, the FPS genre has received the same treatment. After unfathomable amounts of Call of Duty and Battlefield, a game like Superhot proves that you can breathe fresh air into anything.