In this modern age we live in, there’s no doubt in my mind that games today are as good as they have ever been. This is not to suggest that the importance of games that came before are diminished, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for instance is and will remain a classic, but rather a way to analyse the situation here. Graphics are better than they’ve ever been, accompanied by larger and more detailed open worlds, more complicated design, and overall higher production value, with games costing more than they ever have to produce. With all of these facets coming into play in almost every AAA release, a new trend has emerged among players. There is a willingness to rush to anger should a game fail, in a real or imaged way, to hit these development milestones. This piece will explore the question of whether the gamers of today simply expect too much from these experiences.
Expecting a certain level quality from a developer is simply wanting value for money, and that’s fine. Horizon: Zero Dawn is a great example of this. A stellar experience on all fronts, rounding out what it means to make a truly superior game. Astounding graphics, an interesting story and protagonist, a dense and diverse open world topped off with fantastic and functional controls and mechanics. Games of this caliber are rarely seen, and it goes to show as they stand out above the rest. As a result, there’s very few people complaining about the game online and for those that are, it’s largely a matter of the game not being their cup of tea rather than any inherent flaw of its design.
Contrast this with a more recent title, Mass Effect: Andromeda. Without going into specifics, this is a solid and enjoyable title. It may not have the polish of Horizon: Zero Dawn, but is that cause to dismiss it as an underwhelming title? If you’ve been keeping up to date with the latest news regarding the title, you may have seen the lacking facial animations from some of the game’s characters. While this may be the case, is that all we should focus on when looking at how gauging its level of quality? These issues, among others, may deter and distract from the overall level of immersion, but are they really so bad we can’t understand the emotion a particular character is conveying? I don’t think so. Mass Effect: Andromeda is an engaging experience, being deep, diverse and though not as polished as something like Horizon. Open worlds are colourful and lush, combat is fun and encourages customisation. I find it odd that all these features take a back seat to wonky facial animation and walk cycles, especially when they account for a greater chunk of the experience.
The experience of the game itself however, is subject to the developer and this is where it gets tricky. Developers like Bioware and Guerilla Studios hold a very high standard when it comes to the games they create. Of course games come out with bugs and although these issues are resolved with iterative patches from day one, there is no excuse for major flaws like game crashes and a laggy frame rate. But we seem to forget that these developers are people, just like us. Sure, a bad game is a bad game for many different reasons but you have to realise that’s not what they intended to make. No-one sets out to make a bad game. The standard of games is only getting higher, and therefore harder for developers to reach this bar time and time again.
Over time, gamers have found more and more to complain about when the standard is only getting higher, begging the question: are we too spoiled? With games of astounding caliber becoming more and more common, is it fair to compare every open world experience to that of The Witcher 3 or even Grand Theft Auto 5? While there is not a definitive answer, the subjectivity of this issue goes to show that while games may not be on that previously mentioned standard, it doesn’t make them bad games. Developers put all their time and effort into something which we can enjoy, and for that reason maybe we should stop complaining about all the little things and start concentrating on the quality of the overall experience. We might just be surprised at what we can find.