Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Twilight of the Action RPG?

Looking at today's games--I have in mind here the action RPG genre--I am struck by their breathtaking graphics, their rendering of vast, intricately detailed, elaborately interactive worlds, and the lushness of the storylines that all this enables.

Still, appealing as they are visually and conceptually, I have to admit to being one of those who feels that games have lost something in attaining this new level of artistic accomplishment.

The size and intricacy and interactiveness of their virtual worlds makes gameplay far less intuitive. The player has to endure elaborate tutorials to master the necessary physical skills. Then in embarking upon their quest I suspect that only the most hardcore players can get by without a strategy guide--genuinely book-length--in hand, playing becoming an exercise in "following the manual."1

I'll admit that I've never had much patience for tutorials of this type, and that I don't even like reading the manual for things I buy in real life. But clearly I'm not the only one who feels that way--or we wouldn't have wound up in this bizarre situation where people in developing countries toil at gold farming in postmodern cyber-sweatshops.

It all leaves me wondering if the gaming experience in this genre did not start to decline a few console generations ago, when the sophistication of the design had grown beyond its bare-bones beginnings (as with gameplay consisting mostly of seeking out random battles so one could level up), but not yet passed beyond that level of accessibility and manageability beyond which a game stops being fun. (Some time around the release of Final Fantasy 7, perhaps?)

What do you think?

1. Online few seem to admit to this kind of reliance--but they also belittle anyone who does admit to this, which leaves me doubtful.

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