Out of the Spotlight: Underrated games
Out of the Spotlight: Underrated games
Over the past year, gamers were treated to what many believe to be one of the greatest years the industry has ever seen. With the launch of two very powerful and promising consoles, not to mention the blitzkrieg of AAA titles for the Playstation 2, the industry gained a whole new reputation as the up and coming star of multimedia entertainment. Growing at an astronomical rate, the games industry has now surpassed Hollywood in terms of sales, and for good reason. The diversity of this industry especially when compared to other mediums of entertainment is by far its biggest asset. The vast majority of movies and full-length cinemas in the world come from Hollywood, whereas video games have major development studios throughout the world. While still strongest in Japan, the industry has seen tremendous growth and acceptance in the United States, and all over Europe. This diversity creates great opportunity for gamers, because the different perspectives that each studio brings to the market ensures far more originality than other forms of entertainment. However, while there is certainly more acceptance of original work in games, new and innovative titles never seem to get the praise and sales they deserve. There have been so many quality titles that have come out with truly innovative concepts, only to fail in the market. This seems odd given the virtual flooding of complaints throughout the community that no company is willing to bring us anything original. Excuse me?
Resident Evil Infinity
It is true that many developers stick solely with proven concepts when developing and marketing their games. They know that another Resident Evil or Final Fantasy title will sell, so why bother with anything else? Despite the fanboy garbage being spewed in forums all over the internet, every company in this industry, just like every other industry in the world, is here to make money. I can't believe how many times I read threads boycotting Microsoft and the XBOX because "Microsoft is greedy, all they care about is your money, they don't care about you." No way! Really? You mean that this company is in business to make money? What a novel concept. The fact is that Microsoft is no more greedy than Sony or Nintendo or Rare or any other company on the market. They want to make quality products so that you buy them, in order to increase their profits. Trust me when I tell you that Sony is not looking for slap on the back and a thank you, they are looking for your hard-earned dollar, and they do what they must to get it, and therein lies the problem.
The first rule in mass media states 'give the people what they want'. We here at psxextreme.com do that very thing. If you want 900 screenshots of MGS2 or FFXI, that's what we give you. Why bombard you with coverage of Britney's Dance Beat if you don't care? Game developers follow the same principle: they analyze what you, the public, wants, and they give it to you. Of course, this is not always a bad thing, not in the least. Popular games are usually fairly good games, and those deserving of a sequel. The problem is that when creating a new game most companies often go with proven ideas and concepts instead of venturing into something new. Is that Konami or Capcom's fault? No, the blame lies with the consumer, having given the resounding impression over the years that they really don't want anything innovative or original. After all, why fix it if it ain't broken? Why not just release Resident Evil over and over and over and over.
Hype: Dead or Alive
So why does the general public seemingly ask for nothing but more of the same? Because we are just as afraid of buying a bad game as developers are of making one. $50 is a lot for a game, and no one wants to throw that money away on a whim, just because some developer cooked up some crazy new idea for a game. However, if that is true, then think of how fearful developers are of throwing away millions on a bad idea. Of course, there is more to it than that, because fear of the gamer and fear of the developer are not nearly enough to cause such an outpouring of sameness. Thus, we are faced with the one big question that every good journalist must ask themselves at some point- does media drive reality, or does reality drive media? In other words, how much influence do we, the press, have over the success or failure of a game? Most gamers who wish to be informed will visit a site like this, and what they see often influences their choices when it comes to what games they eventually buy. If all they see is the media pushing the same two or three games at them, then it would stand to reason that we are doing so for a reason. Why would PSXE bring you all these updates on Final Fantasy XI if it weren't the next biggest thing since sliced bread? Well, of course, part of it has to do with the history of some franchises, as their track records tend to speak for themselves, so we figure that you want to know all about the next Metal Gear or Resident Evil game due to the immense popularity of those franchises. However, being members of the gaming media, it would stand to reason that we are well equipped to make more informed choices as to what may be the next blockbuster hit, and therefore give it more attention than other games that don't look too promising. So why don't we do that? Because the first rule of mass media: We cannot assume that you want to know all about Britney's Dance Beat or Scooby Doo: Night of 100 Frights, and we don't dare deprive you fine people of the information that you do want.
So how much influence does this really have? One fine example is the Dead or Alive series, most notably the third installment in the series. DOA3 was billed as the fighter of the next generation, and Tecmo and Microsoft made sure that you were aware of those claims. The media has always been viewed as a trustworthy source, and that is a trust that we don't wish to lose, but at the same time we must be aware of our lively hood. By sticking solely to what we feel are the proper ethics of this industry, we may alienate some of our audience by not pandering to the hype that certain games generate. Therefore, media outlets are faced with the same two-sided coin that has plagued the press since day one- be responsible and honest, but give the public what they want. The reason this becomes a problem is that often times the public doesn't want the truth, they don't want the real story. If you doubt the truth behind these words, turn on your local television news sometime. You won't hear about the important issues facing your local community, you will hear about the superficial yet entertaining matters that surround us- fires, murders, scandals, etc. These issues occur constantly, and are not really newsworthy, yet Fox or CNN will bring them to you because it is their view that such stories are what you want to see. The sad part is they are right. Deep down, people care more about matters that satiate their blood lust as opposed to issues that will edify them, and gamers are no exception. Gamers want to hear about what's hyped, and just as the common man translates what is 'big' into what is 'important', gamers translate what is 'hyped' into what is 'quality'. When this happens, we end up with games like DOA3: Good looking, pretty, but wholly insubstantial. So, what happens when you the gamer buy into this hype? You kill off what is good and decent in this industry, passing up what should achieve at least moderate success in order to rush out and buy a copy of Dead or Alive, thus adding power to the great mighty hype.
Make a Statement
In the end, it is the power of the consumer and the competition for their money that drives everything in this industry. The money you spend on games today will determine what games you spend your money on tomorrow. If you keep buying the same old rehashes, then that is what you will end up with the next time around. Your money is the most influential force in this or any industry, so use it. Take the power afforded you and make a statement. Tell Capcom you want original concepts by not buying the same old games. Tell Eidos they have to earn your dollar by checking out the original stuff they put out now. Show an interest in innovation, and they will give it to you. I'm not saying you should never buy a hyped up game or the sequel to your favorite series. God knows I will buy every MGS game till the day I die. Just try to show a little more interest in what's fresh out there. Also, show us in the media an interest as well. I always get letters asking about Final Fantasy XI or SOCOM: Navy Seals, and I never reply. The same old thing fails to capture my attention. However, when I get an email asking about Downforce or The Thing or any other upcoming title that is lost in the background, it intrigues me and I take the time to read and reply. Just like you, I want to be kept interested, and the same old thing just doesn't cut it for me anymore. Why should you be satisfied?
5/14/2002 Ryan Hartmann