David Black is a 3rd year Computer Games Design student at UEL, and wants to say that the views expressed here are just his and don’t represent anyone else’s. Still, he’ll be as factual as he can be.
Reviving the classics – the future or a fad?
In the past year or so, there’s been a surge in remastered or even remade games that were first released roughly 15-20 years ago: Crash Bandicoot, Wipeout and Spyro the Dragon being popular and highly advertised examples. Coupled with this are games that try to ‘recapture’ the feeling of that time by mimicking the gameplay that made that gaming era so memorable, such as the Crowdfunded Yooka-Laylee or Divinity: Original Sin. On the face of it, there appears to be a growing demand and appeal for games that remind older players of the games they grew up with, or introduce younger players to the successes that helped push gaming to the heights it’s currently at.
However, it should be pointed out that this trend is only a new addition to games made in America, Europe and the UK. For over a decade now, some of the most popular game series to come out of Japan have been polished, enhanced and re-released worldwide. These include the bundle of older Final Fantasy games being released for modern consoles in 2019, the remade versions of old Pokemon titles (such as Fire Red, Alpha Sapphire and even technically the recent Pokemon Let’s Go), and the frequent appearances of old Mario games updated to the standards appropriate for the latest devices.
All this raises a question worth considering: are truly unique and successful game ideas getting rarer and harder to come up with? Many winning formulas had already been nailed down, understood and developed on since computer games as popular entertainment were even beginning to become the norm. So it stands to reason that large developers and publishers would prefer to work within those boundaries for a low-risk success, instead of pushing boundaries on ideas that may or may not work out; see the myriad of first person shooters (both modern and historical) available today to see what I mean.
Happily, this issue is being tackled by ‘indies’, or independent developers. Often without a publisher to anger or holiday deadline to fret over, these small groups (or sometimes even individual!) developers frequently make games using uncertain, untested and risky ideas and concepts, making the task of pushing the boundaries of what works in games shared between large teams of game designers and developers, and small groups of passionate professionals.
All in all, I want to say that my point is this: by looking at just the recent, widely marketed, often talked about games it can feel as though the creativity behind what was (not too long ago) an enormously diverse array of ideas has gone dry. Happily, that isn’t the case. Those zany ideas are still out there, you need only look for them.