Friday, February 26, 2010

"Streamlining" Does Not Mean "Dumbing Down"

Nathan Grayson posted a great article over at Maximum PC yesterday, and I thought you guys might enjoy it.

He explains why gamers should stop raising hell every time we hear that a game has been "streamlined." By clinging to our old standards of what a genre is "supposed to be," we stand in the way of experimentation and progress, holding back the industry at large.

On the one hand, I know why many of us do it. We like the way many of these genres play now. We get attached to these games, and we want to play more like them. Then we hear they're changing the formula, and we freak out. There's no guarantee that the new gameplay will be as good, and - even if it is - it's not the same gameplay we already liked and wanted more of. I don't think there's anything wrong with liking a successful formula and wanting to enjoy more of the same.

But when we cling too tightly, and close our minds to potential improvements, we really do cripple forward progress for the industry. Sometimes, these daring changes lead to games that we treasure and wonder how we ever did without.

We would all do well to try and keep an open mind. You miss out on a lot of great gaming experiences otherwise.


  1. I might be kind of forced to defend Heavy Rain as an interactive multi-path novel, because my 2nd favorite game of all time, Phoenix Wright, is actually quite similar; for both games you have to give up some level of wanting to be in the action, and think like you're watching a good, well-written movie. And then the interactive portions simply come as a nice bonus. Sure, it's a one-time experience that's not as great to play again (maybe more for Heavy Rain with split decisions) but if that one time is forever memorable, it's served its purpose.

    ME2 I'm still willing to criticize though. The combat is nice, but it's definitely not deep. I felt like my solution to every problem was sort of the same, and I was just being a dumb gun. They DID have some nice mechanics last time, though yes, they really sucked in the intuition department, and I would easily have gone for streamlining them; but not just removing everything entirely. That smacks of lazy design when your half-baked mechanics are broken.

  2. The words that jump out at me here are "no guarantee." There's definitely a ring of truth to that; going from certainty to uncertainty of quality can be too much to bear, perhaps.

    It's nice to read an article like this, because there's a million more out there ALSO questioning how we, the masses, define video games. Everyone's trying to get the word out.

  3. Funny how that sort of thing makes the entrenched gaming community that immediately sets crosshairs on these new things look kinda like reactionary religious groups that will see technological or ideological development as works of evil. The other funny thing is that in the gaming world the entrenched are both not going to become unentrenched because of it and can't do anything about it at all since they aren't a big enough threat to... well, anyone but small companies that won't do this kinda thing.