The evolution of games - and why it sucks
With the recent addition of DOOM 2016, a very disturbing pattern is forming concerning the evolution of games. They aren't evolving, they're stagnating --or at worst, they're devolving. This is of course subjective opinion, but there is some proof in the proverbial pudding.
Let's look the four stages in the evolution of games in order to understand where we're headed with reboots and re-imaginings like the recently released DOOM:
The First Game in the Series
We know that usually the first title of any series is where developers and designers put a lot of effort and heart into their game. They make a point of 'putting their best foot forward' because they want the game to succeed.
Most games showcase this quite well: think ICO, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, the first Mario game, first Call of Duty, Star Wars Battlefront and so forth. These games, although not always perfect, gave us enough to keep us interested.
Second Game: More Content, Better Graphics
The first thing that most developers do with the second game is add more. Coders and programmers are usually excited by the prospect of 'giving the players what they want' and to give them what they couldn't in the first title. Think Silent Hill 2, Shadow of the Colossus, DOOM II or Star Wars Battlefront II.
Third Game: Better Graphics, Same Content
Around this time, it seems like developers get lazy, while players demand more of what they always get. So designers don't dare try anything new. As gamers, we have a lot of sway in what designers will give us. And the more we scream, yell, beg, or demand, the more the face of gaming will change.
Think about DOOM 2016. It's not a bad game, that's not what I am saying, I love the game, but it does stagnate. It offers nothing new really. It's just another DOOM game with better graphics.
Fourth Game: Even Better Graphics, Less Content
And here we hit the current evolution in games. They are dying in their content -- giving less and less to the gamer in order to cater to a broader audience. The end result is older games are better than the newer crop, which really shouldn't be happening.
Examples would be World of Warcraft Cataclysm, Skyrim or Star Wars Battlefront III.
Dragon Age would be a good example. Dragon Age: Origins was focused on tactics, a lot of choices in character design and up 100 hours of game-play. Dragon Age II was stripped of most of the character customization, RPG elements, and was made overall a lot more flashy.
Why is this happening?
Because gamers are lazy. Think about like this: you only have so many hours in the day, you want to use the few you have to do something entertaining, and that you enjoy. You enjoy games, so you look for games that are easy to learn. Cue ever single horror game ever.
Every day we find new ways to make gaming easier, simpler, more streamlined and 'better' for a younger generation to get into. Take the concept of VR -- we don't even need to hold a controller anymore.
Horror games are still simplistic in nature; the less you can do, the better. The moment you have to think too much, it tends to pull you out of the dark atmosphere and spookyness of the game. You don't want steep learning curves, you want to enjoy yourself now. And this concept is sliding its way into other games.
The idea is so ingrained in us that when we see a horror game (and you can apply this to FPS/MMO/Strategy), we usually already know how to play it - this is the death of innovation. These themes – amnesia, zombies, hospitals, creepy pictures, light, missing kids – are rehashed to such an extent it is getting laughable.
Will it change?
No, not unless we do something about it. And with the way things look now, gamers don't want to do anything about it. RPGs are being streamlined, strategy games are dumbing down the strategy, themes are being rehashed to death, and every teenager and his three-eyed cat is a coder.
There really is no point in fighting it. Just close your eyes and let the river of devolution take you away to your simplistic mindless happy place -- dumbed-down gameplay and all.