Are Shorter Attention Spans Hurting The Role-Playing Genre?
It's why one camera angle isn't utilized for more than ten consecutive seconds when filming television shows or movies. It's why everything from commercials to cartoons has to constantly be in the face of the viewer. The information age has resulted in many positive things, but one of the negative results has been a society of instant gratification-seeking, something-must-always-be-happening, sneaker-gazing people.
While it's certainly true that gaming once relied almost entirely on reflexes and many would argue that video games might be a root cause of attention problems, we're starting to see the "twitch" impact in most every angle of the gaming world. And the one genre that may suffer most - especially in the eyes of the long-time hardcore fans - is the role-playing genre. While we now have the technology to allow actions and commands to happen faster and more fluidly, we're also sacrificing any semblance of slow (or even moderate) pacing. Final Fantasy XIII has often been used as an example of flashy speed supplanting depth and overall micromanagement, and that's hardly the only instance. Last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops was so over-the-top, it was borderline absurd. It was fun and intense but one could easily note the increase in rapid-fire "impact" moments.
Many say turn-based gaming has died as a result of better technology, and it simply isn't desirable anymore. All real-time is superior, because developers can include all the depth and strategy without the need to pause combat. ...but that may not be the only reason we're not seeing any slower-paced games, anymore. Is it also because game designers, like most entertainers, understand that the masses now have attentions spans of hamsters, and can't focus on any one thing for more than a few seconds at a time? One other intriguing thing about RPGs: they used to be the king of cut-scenes and CGI; Xenosaga boasted half-hour breaks in the action, and many other RPGs featured hours of non-interactive content. The argument that it was like "watching a movie" was always stupid, as the adventures were at least 40 hours in length and no game included more than a few hours of "movies."
But the longest cut-scenes we've seen this generation have probably belonged to MGS4, and that's about it. Most any other game doesn't feature a cut-scene longer than a few minutes; it's almost as if developers have a limit or formula now. In regards to RPGs, many of which thrive on storytelling, this may prove problematic. How much longer before even "RPGs" will include action that isn't much different than CoD? That's the question that keep role-playing fans up at night, somehow knowing they'll be forced to keep revisiting the classics, because the pacing and style of the "future" has forced the entire industry to congeal into one, giant, incessantly flashing piece of seizure-inducing entertainment.
1/4/2011 9:20:29 PM Ben Dutka