As you peruse the Xbox or Playstation store games, probably skipping through the deals to see if there is anything tasty, your mind will no doubt settle on the idea that modern gaming sucks.
As you consider what to spend your money on, you think about the bigger games but aren’t too comfortable with their prices, and you look at some of the smaller games that would have been considered shovelware or bloatware if they had been added to a demo disc.
Yet, are modern games to blame for our apathy? Is it possible that we have abundance fatigue? Are we getting too much meat and potatoes, and not enough carrots and spring greens?
What Is Abundance Fatigue?
When something becomes popular, when an idea catches on, developers rush to add it to their games. Try to remember, not long ago, games weren’t all open world. Every game didn’t have to level. Every game didn’t have crafting, stealth, and big action set pieces. The staples of a modern “Bland” game were innovative at one point in history.
Abundance fatigue is what you get when developers try to cram as many good ideas and innovations into a game as possible without considering its context, meaning, or impact on balance.
Modern Far Cry games allow you to play the game your way, to approach the enemy camps how you wish, but by offering so many options, they are destroying any chance of challenge or a real feeling of accomplishment.
But We Want Good Stuff?
Things like crafting are good, aren’t they? Being able to roam an open world is a good thing, isn’t it? Getting 100% completion and all the grindy achievements is an enjoyable thing, right? Aren’t all of these innovations good things?
Yes, they are good things, but only when they are added to games in an organic way. Abundance fatigue has caught on because you can automatically assume what is going to be in every single game no matter the context or meaning.
Perhaps it is suitable that Arthur Morgan crafts his own arrows and cooks his own meals in the wilderness, but why did the 2021 Pokémon Legends game need crafting? This creature hunting and battling game need crafting because all games need to have crafting. If you were to take crafting out of RDR2, it may negatively affect the experience, but who would honestly miss it in a Pokémon game?
There is also a little resistance because many of these game elements are fun, and people think that if they are removed from games, then the fun parts of the game will also die, but that is not the case at all.
You may find action movies fun, and you may find serious drama movies fun, but that doesn’t mean they have to share the same screen in the cinema? There are times when action and drama fit well, but other times you can just have action and drama and the experience is just as good. Perhaps crafting in a Pokémon game is fun (it isn’t in this case), but even if you find it fun, it doesn’t mean it belongs in the game. It doesn’t mean it elevates the game in any way.
Are We Complaining About Having Too Much?
No, this is not a “privileged problem”. This is a “developer wanting to have all the cakes and eat them all” problem. Developers are throwing anything at the wall and hoping it sticks, and the worst part is that gaming history has taught us that tight, well-balanced, cleverly built games are the most effective and long-lasting.
On that note, have we forgotten that awful trend known as quick time events? Have we forgotten gambling loot boxes? Have we forgotten about unskippable cut scenes? These were all horrible gaming innovations that were quickly adopted into games and it took years of complaining before the gaming community was finally able to get rid of them.
The only reason these horrible gaming mechanics were allowed to thrive is that developers saw something new and threw it into their games like a cheap French chef throws onions into a stew, and the food metaphor is perfect for what is happening to modern gaming.
Modern developers and publishers are so eager to shove content down our throats that they will throw anything into their games no matter the meaning or context. They are chefs who have heard people like Chinese, Italian, and Indian food, and so serve it all up on one big plate telling us to eat it our way.
Do Modern Games Suck?
Modern games don’t suck any more than they have for previous generations of games consoles and PC GPU iterations. The broader market seems to be throwing as many “Innovations” into their games as they possibly can, but the games that are actually lovingly created are the ones we still talk about and revere.
People still talk about Portal, Dark Souls, Wind Waker, Batman Arkham city in the same way we still talk about the Sims, Resident Evil 1, the old Tomb Raiders, and even Doom.
Developers are throwing everything into the mix and hoping for the best. Even FromSoftware added an open world, a plants collection, and all that other nonsense. But, the fact is that lovingly created and well-directed games are still being made. It is just that they are often surrounded by arm-waving slogan-chanting competitors who will dress up however you like so long as you give them money.
If Modern Games Don’t Suck, What is the Problem?
The problem, dear consumer, is you. If you continue to pay the developers who throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, then you are rewarding them for their money-grubbing ways. When you hype up poor quality games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout 76, based on nothing more than promotional material, then you are the reason why the next stinking mess gets released to great fanfare.
Even if you do like getting caught up in the hype and then paying a massive amount for a mediocre game, could you at least stop pre-ordering games? There has never been a situation where a pre-order bonus was worth the added money.
This is especially true since in every case, a few months later, the “Super exclusive pre-order bonus” is bundled in with the first DLC, season pass, or ultimate edition. At the very least, when you avoid pre-ordering, you are allowing games to launch and stretch their legs before you reward their developers with your money (be it deserved or not).
As conservative radio talk host Dennis Prager said, “How you spend your money is a vote for a company.” In other words, when you buy a company, you are supporting it, you are supporting its decisions, and if you pre-buy terrible and exploitative games, then you are supporting that company’s greed, hubris, or simple lack of consideration for its customers.
Let Time Make Fools of the Foolish
There have been a lot of hyped games that have fallen flat, and the people who are laughing are those who waited a little while before buying the game. There was a time when games seemed like they could be lost, but thanks to websites like GOG, and thanks to publisher’s unquenchable thirst to make nostalgia money, we see old games coming back all the time.
There are still people buying POE currency because they are still playing. They are still playing GoldenEye on emulators with more mods than a space station, and there are even Doom levels within the actual levels of new Doom games. Time doesn’t make fools of us all, but it does make fools of the money-grubbing companies that hype up a game as hard as they can so that they have already made their money from pre-order and launch weekend sales so it doesn’t matter if the critics eventually start paneling the game.