Attention: Stop Whining About Sequels
It's the "l33t" thing to do these days: whine, moan and complain bitterly about every last sequel that comes down the pike. If you complain enough, you'll be seen as a seer of sorts; a "true gamer" who stands atop a rickety soapbox and lectures everyone on the importance of original ideas. "Innovate or grow stale and die," they say. ...yeah, maybe these people haven't noticed that the gaming industry is nothing like film. Sequels tend to rule.
Why? Because the gaming industry continues to advance forward in both technical and artistic areas; there are many ways to improve and in comparison to movies, games are still young. We've got a long ways to go, so of course a sequel in the PS2 era to an original title in the PS1 era will be better in a variety of ways. I'm not saying that better graphics or more hardware potential automatically translates to better quality, but let's face it: it usually does. Hey, I'm one of those old-school gamers who still thinks Super Mario Bros. is one of the greatest games ever made, even though I know dozens - if not hundreds - of titles in recent history have surpassed it in every conceivable way. We all have to admit that nostalgia plays a very large role in our "Greatest Ever" lists; objectivity is always difficult to embrace when the rose-tinged memories of our childhoods interfere.
But if we put all that aside, we should probably accept the glaring truth: a sequel in the world of video games is often bigger and better than the first title. Plain and simple. Granted, long-running franchises can begin to grow stagnant and backtrack along the quality progression line, but there's a damn good reason why the best games in the world have a number in the title. I could make a list but I don't have to; we all know what games are on that list, and you can check any resource you wish. Go to Metacritic or GameRankings and find the top 50 or 100 titles ever, and see how many aren't original IPs. Check sales charts. Just look at this year, for crying out loud; it's very likely that Game of the Year candidates will be Killzone 2, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Halo 3: ODST, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and if a good thing happens, Gran Turismo 5. Again, in very long-running franchises like maybe Madden or Final Fantasy, one can certainly argue over the last four or five installments.
But for the most part, sequels have provided us with some of the finest gaming experiences in history, which - strangely enough - separates us more from the movie industry than almost anything else. Yes, I want the original IPs, too - Heavy Rain, The Last Guardian, Alan Wake, Demon's Souls, Brutal Legend, etc. - and we absolutely need them to maintain originality and a forward-thinking philosophy in the industry. But we do have them and while it's easy to pick on developers and publishers for producing "just another sequel" to keep profits high, let's not pretend that sequels to great games aren't usually representative of more greatness.
9/1/2009 Ben Dutka