31 Aug

The increasing cost of development has paved the way for some spectacular games. Batman: Arkham Asylum, Uncharted 2, God of War 3, and Gears of War 2 were all far above the standard caliber and redefined their respective genras.

The problem? They were all also sequels.

Let’s face it, with a high production cost and great press comes a price. More and more we see more of the same. In a market with escalating stakes, the highest common denominator is, in fact, the most common.  Even Indie developers who have been churning out class A titles like Super Meat Boy and Limbo are beginning to suffer from the  [insert premise here] c0py cat philosophy.  As more developers put down the notepad and pick up the rubric for success, the whole industry begins to go mad! Mad I tell you! Or maybe it’s all just going Mad Lib.


Action/Adventure Games
I know I can’t stand here and say action games are going stale. Uncharted 3 and Batman: Arkham City are looking to be EG game of the year material. Still, you can’t deny that all the best looking action games for this and next year are also all sequels. I’d bet gold to gil that Uncharted 3 will be a lot of:


It’s not that the games are getting worse, it’s that they’re getting more predictable. Even Batman: Arkham city runs the risk of being a test in how many batarangs you can throw at “Clown Faced Enemy A”, or worst, it could be Captain America: Super Soldier—a slogging Batman rip-off with a few good ideas.

Nowadays, it seems every action game I play follows the same standard mantra:

(EX: El Shaddia: Rise of the Metatron, Castlevania: Lords of Shadows, God of War 1-3, Enslaved: Journey to the West, Bayonetta, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters )

How did your action game turn out? Mine goes like this: a boobs boobs runs, jumps, and climbs through boobs until they reach a… well you get the idea. I was never really good at mad libs but I think I might be on to something.

It’s hard to even pretend that there are unique first person shooters anymore. Between Call of Duty, that’s starting to come out more often than Madden, and the rest of the war based shooters,  there isn’t too much that avoids the performed formula. Even games with the attention to detail like Battlefield: Bad Company 2 follow the same trite canon.

(Ex. Halo, Resistance, Fracture, Mass Effect, Crysis, Kill Zone, Gears of War, Kane and Lynch )


You must be this bald to hold a gun.

You must be this bald to hold a gun.


Indie Games

(Ex. VVVVVV, Super Meat Boy, Limbo, Cave Story, Mechanic Infantry)


I put Batman for both blanks and it actually sounds awesome.

The sad thing is that indie games are supposed to be the outlier. While major companies tend to venture away from risky ideas, indie developers are intented to be the pioneers of innovation. But now that ‘independant’ is becoming mainstream, we’re seeing a slew of difficult 2D side-scrolling adventures.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of difficult 2D side-scrollers, but when your options are literally limitless you might want to explore something that Mario didn’t do over 20 years ago.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that a frightening trend is quickly becoming apparent.  The most anticipated games of this and next year are mostly identical to those of the last, and it’s not even the developers’ fault. The price of production is skyrocketing to the point where a blockbuster game can’t afford to fail. Why would a developer take a chance on something new when they can easily bank on what’s acceptable?

But there’s hope! There are  games in each genre that at least try to defy the Mad Lib mentality. Look at Shadows of the Damned. No seriously, look at it! Why are you not playing a game that at least tries to inject uniqueness and charisma into a genre that is all but become a murderous hive mind of bullet ridden corpses and cursing children (zombie children). Bulletstorm took a chance on a combo system that rivals the original Viewtiful Joe in intrinsic desire to see numbers. These two games may not be perfect, but they’re at least trying to freshen up the melbatoast mediocrity that we as gamers face all too often now.

I’m not asking you to forsake all your favorite games this year. What I am asking is that you remember that you can be a voice for innovation. Look up The Binding of Isaac and Witness. Buy a unique action title just because it’s unique. There are plenty of games you could be supporting that are critical failures because they aren’t something you’ve already played. You are the consumer and you can make a difference!

Or you can just sit around with you ________(noun) in your _________(noun).




5 thoughts on “They Might As Well Be Mad Libs”

  1. Disturbingly true, maybe the Smithsonian exhibit next year won’t help games to achieve respect as a medium after all if the industry keeps going this way.

    Still a very amusing article to read. Kudos!

  2. What a cool article, nice job.

    I’ll have a go – So many d____(noun)people buy the same Re – h_____(noun) crap over and over because they don’t see how _______(direction) the game is, it’s always the same and never really advances.

    And when Battlefield 3 comes out, it’s all over =P

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