Why Is There Too Much Homogeneity in Gaming?

Written by on January 31, 2013 in [, , , , , , , , , ]

Military-themed first person shooters that take place in the near future and involve left trigger and right trigger mechanics to aim and shoot, right? Remember how we’ve had like a thousand of those things this console generation? Hey, remember that decade when everything was a JRPG? No? Allow me to illuminate you, fictional conversation partner!

Yup, that dude sure is running with a gun.

We’re probably aware of Final Fantasy on the NES. Maybe even Dragon Warrior, which was the best incentive to get Nintendo Power ever. But let’s look at some details:

Final Fantasy games were released from 1987 to 2010. Yes, 2010. Because spinoffs make me go pffffft.

Final Fantasy VI, courtesy of http://phoenixgamesri.blogspot.com

Final Fantasy VI, courtesy of http://phoenixgamesri.blogspot.com

Breath of Fire ran from 1993 to 2002 with a mess of recent re-releases.

Breath of Fire 2, courtesy of IGN. Yup, that’s sure…just about the same

The Mana Series (starting with Final Fantasy Adventure, not Secret of Mana) ran from 1991 to 2007.

Oh, and Dragon Warrior? Well the Dragon Quest series it started off ran from that freebie game in 1986 until last year. So that.

In this time period (We’ll call it about 10 years if we follow the fairly narrow Breath of Fire run) we had Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, E.V.O. (the RPG focused around evolving creatures), Earthbound (as in the only game in the Mother series that made it into the US), two different Shadowrun games, a whole mess of Ultima stuff, and a bunch more. This list, which is by no means comprehensive, has over 50 entries on it. And that’s not counting anything on the Genesis or Playstation (you know, where many of you thought the JRPG began).

That’s…hundreds of games in a relatively short period of time. What’s up with that? Isn’t this the same crazy problem that we’re in right now with shooters? And if we go back farther we see it with platformers. Remember Bubsy? Bubsy was a thing that existed. Because platformers. And because (genre) has been the rationale for a number of products in video games.

And that’s still happening today. The crazy retro game? Probably has rhythm elements. The 2d platformer on XBLA or Steam is almost definitely going to have an open map that requires a variety of powerups to move past, a la Metroid.

Here’s the thing about all of this. Games cost a lot of money to make. So they kind of have to work. Something that’s fundamentally awful like Clive Barker’s Jericho or Lord of the Rings: War in the North isn’t just entertainingly bad, it’s probably costing someone a whole bunch of money. So games start looking alike. And then a lot of games look alike. And then people declare themselves to be insightful by pointing out the number of brown modern military shooters that exist.

This works for just about any product. Energy drinks exist because someone figured out more caffeine in a drink that tasted like medicine and mixed well with vodka was great, so now half the cooler at the 7-11 is energy drinks. We have a billion tablets that are kind of the same thing because there are probably more iPads in existence than human beings right now. And games are going to keep going this way because we don’t want to change things on our own. We abandon hidden gems like Hybrid and get the eighth Modern Warfare game instead.

I think at the end of all this I want to encourage you to look for things. So much of the critical thought in video games is about hating stuff. Telling me why something is bad is unproductive and just dumb. So stop that. If you want the industry to change, take your patronage to something different. This market only rewards success, and success is only measured in purchases. So go look at some stuff on Desura or check out some indie highlights on Steam. Because if you never look past the brown military shooter everything’s going to be that forever.


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Author: Zach Snell View all posts by
Hi there. If you're reading this you've probably read some material of mine. If you want more go here and read my stories about a guy who punches wizards. http://www.amazon.com/Zachary-Snell/e/B008G0MORI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

One Comment on "Why Is There Too Much Homogeneity in Gaming?"

  1. John Catuira February 4, 2013 at 8:20 am -

    I also remember when every game had to be a platformer, which eventually gave way to every game having to be a fighting game. For better or worse, making games is as much about economics as it is about creative diversity.

    This is why I’m happy to see a surge in indie games. They have really taken the lead in original content as well as reviving older genres.

    In short, I totally agree with you. But I’m optimistic about our future.