The State of AAA Gaming

Work in Progress. Originally written on July 12th, 2020.

i feel like video gaming nowadays are becoming more popular than ever, and as with any subculture that became popular, the issues that follows with it. it has turned into a massive industry where the main focus is to making money. there are a couple of issues that i want to talk about here, which are 1) the paradigm shift of video games from "art" to money-making industry, 2) the rise of "cinematic experience", and 3)

most games nowadays have shifted from giving the whole content on single price, to offering DLC expansions, to cutting out content to put them behind DLCs, and now to straight-up content paywalls. Please note that i refer to DLC as a completely new content that is otherwise not found on the original game, and not necessarily important to the player experience, whereas content paywalls as a means to lock certain content behind purchases, limiting the player to only a percentage of what the whole game offers.

a somewhat extreme example of this is Destiny 2. while it is now offered for free, playing it for several hours really shows that there is a lot of its content that is locked behind two major expansions (the base game only has a handful of exotics), or offered via season pass (which has to be renewed every season). another different example is The Last of Us 2. the game may not offer any extra DLC whatsoever, but it is clear that it is made to follow the popular culture of the time. now, to be fair though, i haven't played the game, nor have i read about the story/watched a play through of the game, and i based my opinion so far on the general conversation of the game on the internet. it is a game that is made to be as safe and as inoffensive as possible, in order to cater to the popular culture currently. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, but i see this as the position that game developers and publishers currently hold.

The other problem with video games lately is the so-called "cinematic experience". It has a number of indicators, which mostly are technical things. They are:

These things creates the "cinematic experience" in video games, which are somewhat detrimental to the gameplay experience, because sometimes it then simplifies the gameplay mechanics. An example to this is most, if not all, choice-driven narrative games, like every single one of Telltale Games' games, or Quantic Dream's games. These games rely so much on audio-visual storytelling and has little to no unique mechanics that would incite replayability. The replayability comes from the fact that you can create different decisions between different playthrough, and its uniqueness, lie on its story and themes. On the other end of the spectrum is games that focus solely on mechanics, and puts the story on second thought (or as i view it, as a background that flow seamlessly as you play it). One of the games that i think can be categorized in here is the Dark Souls series. The Dark Souls series values gameplay mechanics above the story, and, as a result, the replayability lies on exploiting the game's mechanics to a weird extent (e.g. Ymfah's videos on dark souls)