Thought of the Day: Why do games go out of fashion?

This week, I’ve been playing a variety of older games, or games which are built around unfashionable playing styles.

  • Starcraft 1 (THE old school RTS)
  • Dragon Quest IX (old school RPG, you wander around and kill stuff and get xp)
  • Thief 3 (picked up from the last big Steam Sale)
  • WoW/LOTRO (may be popular but the game model is 5 years old)

SC2 and DQ9 are both current chart-topping mega-sales games. Both of them are polished revamps of types of game which simply haven’t been fashionable over the last few years. Civilisation 5 will also probably be one of the big sellers of the year when it is released, and not because of its innovative game play.

So clearly players love them and are racing out to buy and play. Aside from the question of how Blizzard could afford to ignore a red hot property like Starcraft for 10 years rather than putting out a couple more expansions, maybe we need to think about why we view games as going in and out of fashion.

Some computer games will go out of fashion because they were designed around hardware that no longer exists. Or they were designed around limitations that no longer exist.

Some will go obsolete because of the internet. For example, these days you can assume that anyone who wants to know spoilers, tactics, or walk throughs can just hop online and get them. That affects the types of puzzles which people play.

Some won’t go obsolete precisely but will be refined out of recognition.

Some just reflect the current preferences of game designers or current views by publishers on who their main market/ profit is (Who is the core player? How much time do they have to play? What makes them buy games? What makes them pay more?)

Good design does not go out of fashion.

Why B Movies make the best games

And now for something completely different.

There’s been a lot of talk recently (and not so recently) about whether games are or can be Art. And although I’m sure that some would definitely fit the bill, I have a sneaking suspicion that the best games might not be inspired by the best Art …

And here’s a guest post I wrote on Syp’s Marvellous Biobreak Blog, about why B movies make the best game storylines.

10 cool posts to read over the weekend

I haven’t done a good links post for awhile. But not for the lack of material!

  1. Flaim at The Cognisance Council has some thoughts for tanks, from someone who doesn’t tank. Big Bear Butt Blogger has some more thoughts about the tank’s role in a group, from someone who does.
  2. I’ve often seen bloggers wish that MMOs were based more on skill than on grind. But here’s the other side of the picture, MMO Designer discusses why it may be better to reward players for time spent, rather than for challenge.
  3. Dwism writes a timely post on some of the easter eggs in WoW. The little details that bring the world to life (a bit) which people might miss if they just dash through following questhelper like dogs on leashes.
  4. Leigh Alexander discusses an indie game that lets you take your virtual revenge on guys who make catcalls in the street. (Warning: if it bothers you that some women may not like being accosted in the street, don’t read this.)
  5. A couple of great posts from The Psychology of Games. One on how people pick their guildies, and how players pick their guilds. And another on whether people behave better online if they pick an avatar that looks more like themselves.
  6. Back in March, Keen swore that he’d never touch another F2P game. It’s something that he still feels very strongly about, and he describes why he thinks F2P is going to ruin LOTRO.
  7. Jeff Vogel at The Bottom Feeder discusses anti piracy solutions. And explains why he thinks the options that players hate might be the ones which work best.
  8. Back in February, Larisa was already asking how WoW players were going to keep their enthusiasm going until November. We still don’t really know the answer to that.
  9. Kava is a Wow player and musician who writes a druid blog at Evil Tree. She’s recently been sharing her passion for gaming music, comparing classical music and opera with the Warcraft soundtrack.
  10. Syncaine talks about the lure of grindy gameplay in MMOs. Why do we enjoy spending hours killing mobs or doing dailies to chase that extra 0.1% damage?

Never mind games as art, how about games as AI?

Roger Ebert, the famous film critic, got a lot of press in gaming columns last week by reiterating his views that games are not art. (Basically he thinks it is very key to art that the creator and not the viewer/player/reader should be in charge of the experience.)

And last week, a player created a structure in Dwarf Fortress that is a vast Turing Machine. Perhaps we can argue now instead that games are better than art. I’m also now pondering a set of posts documenting my attempts to learn to play Dwarf Fortress, since that is one of my goals this year.