It's Just Evolution

By Alexandra Geraets in Serious Infotainment
Monday, April 23, 2012 at 10:00 am

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Gamers are a fickle bunch. I speak as one, and I'm sure the rest of you have your moments as well. More than once I have been heard to shout "Passive voice! You're using passive voice! Stop it!" at a video game when a character is speaking. It is poor grammar. It irritates me. When I see my academic background reflected in video games, my reaction is usually a twitch of rage, and then something distracts me enough that I am able to look beyond it. Gamers are, as I said, a fickle bunch, when it comes to presentation, writing, and the evolution of the medium.

Video games continue to evolve in ways that appear to be more focused on getting more people into games than pleasing the people who currently play. The medium is spreading out among the mobile crowd. I don't have an iPhone, but during my daily errands for my job, I see more than one person playing a game (Angry Birds, Words With Friends,etc.) while they wait in line at the bank or the post office. My phone has a little dice game on it, but the extent of the game is that I cue up the app, and shake the phone. It's not terribly engaging as any kind of game game, and it's guaranteed to amuse me for all of about five seconds. Perhaps mobile games for some phones have a ways to go.

So when it comes to the evolution of the medium, when a developer comes along and explains that they want to breathe some new life into an old product - clearly, the cynic states, an appeal to a certain gaming crowd based purely upon sentimentatilty and nostalgia - why, then, do the loudest and most irate of gamers immediately shriek that this type of action is a travesty, an outrage, it cannot be done. Leave our game alone! they bellow at the developer.

I may be exaggerating the reactions of the gaming masses, here, but you get my point.


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Evolving franchises is a complicated thing, and the upcoming reboot, though reimagining might be a more appropriate word, of the Devil May Cry franchise as DmC, seems to stand out from the crowd of upcoming games. I never had much of an attachment to the original games on the PS2, and never got terribly far in Devil May Cry 4. The lead character of Dante didn't really appeal to me, and, at that point, I was one of those women who was terribly offended by the excessive proportions and inane personalities given to female video game characters. With those factors working against the games I didn't give Devil May Cry the time of day I otherwise might have.

The reboot, however, has piqued my interest, and, I hate to say it, it might be due to grumblings from fans of the originals. Aesthetically, the game is more appealing, including Dante's appearance as something of a punk, instead of an early 1990s heavy metal reject. The presence of the 'Big Brother'-esque state of the world makes it speak to the contemporary political and cultural landscape in a more interesting way than the initial games.

Evolving a franchise is important. Breathing new life into the old is critical to the gaming industry. As much as the constant barrage of sequels bore me, I understand that this is how the industry works. It's much the same way for the constant slew of Harry Potter and Twilight knockoffs in the book world. If something works the first time, lightning (and cash flow) are nearly guaranteed to strike twice, thrice, and onward. So bringing an old game back with a new coat of paint is not necessarily a bad thing.

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The reaction of gamers is where things get tricky. Ultimately, yes, consumers do have a great deal of control over the industry. If you don't spend money, then developers don't make money; without financial backing, games don't get made. It's a familiar cycle. We, the consumers, understand that, at the end of the day, it all comes back to money. It isn't just games, it's the same with books, movies, and music. Every form of entertainment relies on money.

That said, putting together a new offering of an old game from scratch might be the way to draw newer gamers into the crowd. I speak from experience, having known several people who don't really care for the PS2 or early Xbox catalogs of games; older games don't appeal to them, due to their appearance, controls, and structure. Reviving a PS2 classic franchise like Devil May Cry with DmC might be the way to draw newer gamers into the old field.

To be honest had I never played the PS2 or the Xbox, then I'd likely not care about the games offered on those consoles. I would not view some developers as I do now, having seen their new works versus the old. Looking at older offerings actually allows gamers to use a more critical eye in selecting their games, in looking at what they want, how they want to play, and what they are willing to spend their money on.

As gamers, we have high expectations of games. We demand quality, clever mechanics, tight controls, and engaging stories. Developers have equally high expectations of their products, with the added influence of the almighty bank account. That said, gamers and developers have a strong symbiotic relationship, one group really cannot go one without the other.

If the old console generation games still have some heartbeats left, then allow them a revival. In the case of DmC, I honestly think this could be a good start to a new exploration of an established franchise. As gamers, we complain about how things never change, and then we complain when things change too much. It's the same in every entertainment field. I'm not saying that DmC is a guaranteed success as a game. At this point there is no such thing as a guaranteed hit. Given an unpleasant set of circumstances, success can even backfire.

In the world of, say, books, sometimes the classics are better left alone. I don't know about anyone else, but I do not need to see zombies, sea monsters, or demonic critters interfering with any more classic literature. That said, zombies, sea monsters, and demonic critters would probably be right at home in Dante's world, and he's welcome to them.

 

 

Serious Infotainment runs on Mondays.


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