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How Badly Do You Really Want Originality?

It's a common cry from the long-time hardcore gamer: "I want more innovation and originality in the industry!"

Well, think about that for a second: Do you? I mean, really? There are facets to the situation that often go ignored, primarily because many gamers don't want to address them.

Everyone screams for originality in many different entertainment venues but at the end of the day, innovation and uniqueness never - and I mean never - outstrip the safe and the familiar. And why? Because the mainstream masses are perfectly happy with mediocrity; at the end of a long work week, they have no interest in taking chances. They don't want to spend their time and money on a possible flop. They know the titillating summer blockbuster at the movies will be completely devoid of substance and intelligence, and it certainly won't offer anything new outside of a few flashy new effects, but they also know that they're fine with that.

If they weren't, the same ol' same ol' wouldn't sell well. In truth, the same ol' same ol' is often the fastest, easiest route to guaranteed financial success. If we really wanted originality, certain franchises wouldn't grab hold for years, generating billions of dollars and becoming the biggest names in the industry. If we really wanted to reward developers for trying new things, we wouldn't continually throw our money at developers and publishers who give us very similar productions, year in and year out. That being said, it's not that innovation and originality can't sell; they can, but usually only if the critics have given their stamp of approval.

What bothers me is people who complain bitterly about a lack of innovation in the industry, and then turn around and buy every last familiar, safe, mainstream title to come down the pike. Not that there's anything wrong with that; you play what you like and you support what you want. But you're not allowed to act all indignant when publishers keep flooding the marketplace with such products. They're not doing it for their health. They're doing it because you will buy them and they know it.

There are no contradictions; when you believe there are, you need to step back and reassess.

Tags: video games, gaming industry, original games, game innovation

10/29/2013 10:25:29 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (29 posts)

Temjin001
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 10:51:05 PM
Reply

A few thoughts. I've noticed that when I'm really really busy and don't have time to game, the times I do game I don't want anything other than simple amusement. I don't want to be enthralled in a story. I don't want to be immersed in some dramatic alternate universe. Nothing all engrossing and deep.
Perhaps a reason Summer Hollywood Blockbusters do well has nothing to do with the intelligence of it's audience, but instead it serves as a simple entertainment outlet for all people, intelligent or not.
Hence, people who do play "faster and dumber" games may very well be rocket scientists who want an outlet, not more thinking.
Honestly, I'd be somewhat concerned if more of society was enthralled in WoW, RPGs, RTS touraments etc. I'd start thinking America is spending too much time dedicating their minds to games, rather than education and prosperity.

The other thought. While many want originality and innovation, namely newer franchises and less redundancy, many people also want high production and quality games. Yes, games like AC, BF, GoW, Halo or whatever are redundant, but they're also they also have the highest quality talent. That's pretty much the entire idea behind the Indie scene. It's why Primal Carnage gives me an experience no AAA multimillion dollar game would provide (anytime soon). It's the creative, innovative, branch of gaming vs the safe, high production branch. What ends up happening, at least for me, is when I play indie games I wish they'd be higher quality in production. But when I play AAA games, I wish they'd be more inventive. It's this dichotomy. My sweet spot would be those games that exist to serve their core, and they're just profitable enough to take chances, but not too profitable to lock themselves in a spin cycle.

So while I'll probably get AC4 and KZ: SF and enjoy them, I'll still reserve feelings of wishing I could have the best of both worlds, innovation and AAA production, more often.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 10/29/2013 10:56:06 PM

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Temjin001
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 11:05:44 PM

so while I'm at it, I've got to give Sony praise for being one of the few publishers out there taking big risks.

It also looks like Media Molecule's Tearaway game will be receiving rave reviews.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 11:13:23 PM

I believe there is a shift happening in Hollywood, those blockbuster movies are on the wane and not meeting projections. Indie movies are doing better and better. And the industry is responding by trying to do smaller things better like biopics (Captain Phillips) or suspense (Gravity) instead of continuing all hands on deck for the brainless stuff.

Gaming could follow similar trends, I'm starting to sense a tiredness about the military FPS route.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 1:04:40 AM

I don't follow the movie scene at all so I wouldn't know.
I do think about the games I've stopped playing due to redundancy or lack of innovation.
I stopped Darksiders 2 because I felt like everything good about it was stolen directly from some other something.
I stopped playing Binary Domain because it felt like a generic TPS pop 'n fire with interesting plot and story (not enough for me to keep playing)
I stopped the CoD's during MW3. I had played basically all of them up until that one. I started it, got about 2 hours in, and said, "I'm done with this. I just don't care anymore." I haven't even touched Blops 2.

On the flip side my favorite genre is one that is nothing but redundant, that being fighting games. I think in this case I'm actually driven by the skill based play. It's not really an experience or immersion driven thing. I think the games I look to for immersion I need it to feel unique, otherwise the game play alone can't hold me.



Last edited by Temjin001 on 10/30/2013 1:05:20 AM

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Beamboom
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 9:24:04 AM

That was a very good post, Temmy.

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Masszt3r
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 1:00:46 PM

I agree with the Hollywood thing. As an admirer of fine cinema, I do like to watch refined films and appreciate their values, but I also like to watch Hollywood big budget explosions and things of the such once in a while simply to be entertained for a couple of hours or ease my mind. I also believe there are a lot of Hollywood blockbusters that can deliver exceptionally high quality, so not all summer films are as bad as many people think.

I do like to see originality videogames (or any kind of media), but I also like to see sequels when the story allows it; Kingdom Hearts 3 is something I definitely want, but on the other hand, I wouldn't like to see a sequel for The Last of Us, at least not any time soon, because I think it ended well the way it did.

As with anything, I think there should be a balance of both. Some games are made for a specific niche, others are made for a different one.

Last edited by Masszt3r on 10/30/2013 1:04:21 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 11:08:06 PM
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I want it pretty badly, not necessarily the innovation but the originality. There isn't much safe about any Bioshock content except the perspective and it sells great. In the same way I think it is in the best interest of everyone for new ideas to come to the fore.

Couldn't they make a good guy crime solving series out of L.A. Noire? I mean do we have to be heartless crooks running wild to sell copies? I don't think so.

Cant someone reinvent the classic fantasy setting and sell some awesome RPG for the ages? I think the answer is yes.

Can't someone elevate the classic third person shooter to the realm of high art? I see no reason why that would fail.

Whenever something is a surefire mainstream hit I tend to backburner it and then get most excited about buying new IPs.

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xenris
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 @ 11:42:10 PM
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I just want more developers to try at things that they think would be cool.

Thats how games started, more of a question the devs asked to themselves, wouldn't it be cool it you could do this.

I think more Indy devs are asking that question and delivering. Even if some of those indy games are just really well done old formulas like 2d platformers. The fact is in this market now 2d platformers are more rare, so when one comes out that is as hard as super ghouls and ghosts well it seem original even though it isn't.

It would be nice if shooters didn't all feel like shooting galleries, Bioshock infinite felt like this to me. I feel like they could do so much with the first person perspective but they just dont.

As for buying this, I actually really try and only buy games that are doing things different. Not a lot of games I buy are mainstream, the last was Blops 2 for zombies and it was a huge mistake. I will never buy another CoD again, until I see some big changes to the formula.

I usually save my money for games like Yakuza, Dark Souls, Ni No Kuni, Dragons Crown etc. Games that are unique when held against what we are usually given in games these days.

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PlatformGamerNZ
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 12:06:23 AM
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yeah i have to agree with well all the things you touched on ben and well i'm coming to peace with it a bit. I still felt a little betrayed when AC was going annual that stung and i'm glad battlefield isn't doing that cos they'd ruin the game if they did but ur right. with indie you get the creativity and innovation and origonality and then the mainstream big budget series that sell 10-30 million copies that everyone loves(sigh) i guess this is just the sad reality we live in.

happy gaming =)

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firesoul453
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 1:53:50 AM
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Heres what I know. I like fun games. The same old games get old eventually. (ie not fun)

Last edited by firesoul453 on 10/30/2013 1:54:00 AM

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Lawless SXE
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 2:49:57 AM
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Love the Atlas Shrugged/Objectivism reference at the end there :)

I absolutely do want originality and innovation in games, and I'm content if it falls under the banner of "safe" innovation as I fully understand that we aren't likely to see any truly new genres emerge henceforth. Unfortunately for me, those two traits are more commonly witnessed within the indie scene than the AAA scene, and I, having a terrible PC and no access to broadband internet, simply cannot be a part of it.

To that end, however, I find myself waiting on the blockbuster titles that offer little more than the same that was offered in the last iteration more and more these days and springing for the more experimental games, even if I end up not liking them all that much (eg. Puppeteer). The problem, as I see it, is that the AAA market demands a certain level of quality and it doesn't matter how inventive your game is if it can't match up to its contemporaries because it is destined to fall by the wayside.

With indie development becoming a much bigger focus for the X1 and PS4, it'll be interesting to see how things pan out there.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 10:47:48 AM

I'm curious to see what will happen to mainstream games when (and it will happen) an indie title is a breakout hit and sells the same as games that cost hundreds of millions to make.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 11:00:23 AM

;)

I've already taken John Galt's oath:

"I swear - by my life and my love of it - that I will never live my life for another man, nor ask another man to live for my mine."

Unfortunately, the prophetic nature of ATLAS is currently being fulfilled, as the government has taken its first step to simply taking what they want from everyone at the point of a gun, for the vague, never-really-defined purpose of "public welfare."

We were given a warning nearly 60 years ago. Now, we're steps away from Directive 10-289...

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PlatformGamerNZ
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 3:32:18 AM
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i had another think and yeah the origonal new stuff is the games that have excited me the most from knack to drive club to watch dogs to the crew and the devision the new IP's is what i got excited about this year.

so year i guess i like some excisting stuff to continue like rachet and clank and assasins creed(dispite the now annual game extries) and battle field but i do like new cool stuff thats what keeps the industry fresh and exciting in my opinion of course idk how u guys feel about the need for new fresh exciting games/series

happy gaming =)

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Bio
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 3:57:29 AM
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Yeah I want original stuff

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___________
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 3:59:38 AM
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dam straight the masses are happy with mediocrity! every time someone tries to do a prequel and add in a little character development show how the famous icon came to be, everyone cries unnecessary cash grab, when in fact there the best titles the franchise has ever seen!

and can we please stop with this if they were not the same ol same ol they wouldent sell well bullsh*t!?
watch dogs certainly is NOT the same ol same ol and its one of next gens most anticipated best selling games!
the past 3 E3s the games which have been getting the awards, watch dogs, destiny, titan fall, the division, are the complete opposite of the same ol same ol.
so please enough with this utter bullsh*t!

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Beamboom
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 5:11:47 AM
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I agree with the core point of your article Ben, but I don't agree that the masses just settle with mediocrisy.

I'd say that a huge majority of the most popular mainstream games are indeed top quality productions. GTA, Assassins Creed, Fallout, Uncharted, Portal, Half-Life, Mass Effect, LittleBigPlanet, Bioshock... These are no mediocre productions.

And to be totally honest, as long as we are given QUALITY rpgs the traditional (western) style, with exploration and crafting and quests and NPCs and cool stories and stuff, I will probably be a gamer for the rest of my life. It's why I keep on gaming.
And I don't mind if shooters keep being shooters as long as the world is interesting and the story likewise.

But I WILL grow tired if ALL we were given were sequels to established franchises. I really do need new worlds, new stories, new settings, regardless if the game underneath is just the "same old formulas".


Last edited by Beamboom on 10/30/2013 5:25:13 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 10:57:37 AM

Gaming is an exception in terms of quality being massively successful, but that will start to change. We've already seen examples of that changing.

In all other forms of entertainment - books, movies, music, etc. - the dumbest, the most insulting, and that which takes the least talent, is sadly some of the most popular.

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MRSUCCESS
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 9:37:40 AM
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There can be originality but if the game play sucks then it's no good. For example --- FUSE -- very original but the game play sucked and it just went south really fast.

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telly
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 11:10:33 AM
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Plenty of original ideas are fantastic, but plenty more are just terrible. Originality for originality's sake is usually a bad idea, in my opinion. But if no one ever pushed boundaries, where would we be?

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PC_Max
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 11:29:41 AM
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To be honest, there really is not much originality per se. I think there is just trying to tell a story or I guess just a game in a different way. I guess that could be... original. In the end its just a rehash of the same thing.

For me over the years the "originaliyu" factor has been waning and the focus, as has been occasionally demanded by a number of gamers, to focus on "realism". The visuals have to be realistic in detail, destructive environments, big explosions and effects, and the ... open world thing now. :/

To many it might sound great and I am sure when ALL devs go that way... we will have originality? because everyone is doing it.

I'm not saying that if you like all that and the rehash of games, over and over and over, that you have no taste. I think I am saying... I am getting bored more quickly these days with those games that are coming out. Occasionally there is a gem or two that gives me an experience.

My hope, for me, and to the benefit I think of other varied gamers is next gen may see a few, not many, but a few "original" or differently told stories/games to make the industry exciting again... or more so any way.

Originality? Hmmm how about an evolving world / universe? Maybe better words to use are organic or dynamic. Not sure Destiny is anything like that unless its strictly multiplayer in that respect. And I am not talking modular where its evolving by adding another planet.

To each there own, and maybe time for the minority (me) to retire from gaming.

Keep playing (wheres my book)!

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Squirrelicus
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 11:37:25 AM
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Mob mentality is what keeps games like COD going. The mentality isn't even that COD:Ghost is going to be good or a improvement the mentality is "My friends are going to play it so I better get it."

The crime isn't that they make sequels of popular games, the problem is they don't put the money back in.

Developers need to be allowed to take risks so they can innovate. Let Treyarch make something outside of the confines of a COD game and sure it could be a total disaster but they could learn something new they can implement on the next COD that breathes new life in the genre.

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I007spectre
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 12:54:02 PM
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I just keep my eye open for what Quantic Dream is doing.

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wiley_kyotee
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 @ 1:44:04 PM

But if Quantic Dream games struggle to make a profit, they won't be developing games for very long, or at least not AAA games.

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Draguss
Thursday, October 31, 2013 @ 2:55:55 AM
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I see originality and innovation as a simply a step to what I really want in this industry, variety. I want it as much as I want the return of classic rpgs, adventure games, platformers, and survival horror games (even though I can't actually play that last one).

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Harerazer
Thursday, October 31, 2013 @ 12:07:14 PM
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As a Gamer who owns not one CoD, Battlefield, or Killzone game I feel like i must comment here. The clamor for originality stems from one issue: The need to garner attention. Everyone who stands up calling for originality should own LBP, Flower, or something similar. While I agree that a game is a game and should be entertaining above all else, the time and effort of someone to bring something new to the table should also be rewarded. Our gaming integrity is a myth. When the primary requirement for buying a game or console is "my friends have it" then it's a sad state of affairs. We as gamers don't want originality, we want to be sheep.

And by "we" I don't mean myself.

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Caanimal
Friday, November 01, 2013 @ 1:40:59 AM
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I just want a good well put together game and story.

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Lunar_Miyuki
Friday, November 01, 2013 @ 10:10:34 AM
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Drakengard 1 i want you to find a similar story and similar gameplay to it
Aerial dragon missions ground missions that you can use a dragon in or go on foot and switch weapons in

a story thats in a fantasy med evil europe setting around 1100 europe
death from above chaos below
people getting possessed by the watchers aka Gods
pacts that are formed with mythical beasts and mythical creatures that have a price
for instance Arioch loses her womb so shes not able to have children
Caim loses his voice
Seerie loses his ability to age
Leonard loses his sight

the goddess is Caims sister and wants inc*st and shes the seal to seal the true form of the world
Leonard was a Pedo who liked little boys
Caim is a psychopathic maniac who enjoys slaughtering
Arioch is a cannibal Elf who enjoys eating children

the watchers want to kill all of humanity

i could go on

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Ultima
Saturday, November 02, 2013 @ 3:27:41 PM
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A bit late to respond to this, but eh.

I don't care about originality. I care about quality. Originality is highly overrated. Quality, though, always shines. You can have the most original idea ever, but if the execution (i.e. quality) isn't up to snuff, then it's a waste.

Then there's the fact that "original" doesn't necessary translate into "good". I'll take "old + good" over "new + crap" any day". This isn't to say that I don't appreciate "new + good". I do. But I don't hold ill regard to anything just because it uses old/recycled ideas (cause true originality is extremely difficult, if not impossible).

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