Posted at 2 p.m. Nov. 1, 2016
Game over: totally over gaming
Social media contributes to quality drop of video games
The gameplay of the hand-drawn indie game NotGTAV is an example of the subpar games produced recently.
I remember the days when I’d impatiently ride the bus home after a day of school that felt like an eternity. After getting home, I’d rush to my room, throw off my backpack filled with homework and power on my Nintendo GameCube. It was the moment I’d been waiting for all day, so I would look at my assigned homework and say, “I’ll just work on that some other time.” This was a wonderful sensation, but after seeing the current state of the gaming industry, I have a hard time believing children can get this same experience today.
I have difficulty finding the time to sit down and play a video game. Despite this, I still try to stay up to date on what new games are being released on Steam by the Valve Corporation. Steam is software that essentially acts as e-commerce for digital video games with cloud storage for the data of those games. It’s safe to say it’s been well over a year since I’ve been excited for the release of a game. Why is this the case?
With the help of popular “Let’s Players” on YouTube, a person who commentates over footage of themselves playing a game, many people seem to treat gaming as something they can watch other people
do rather than an enjoyable pastime.
This is something I have a hard time grasping. I don’t understand why one would rather watch someone else play a game and spew nonsense commentary over it than play it themselves.
However, I do understand there are some benefits to these videos. Some people want to watch a game before they commit to buying it, or maybe someone doesn’t want to spend $40-$60 for a few hours of entertainment. It is a good idea to see the game before buying, and it’s something I’ve done many times myself. However, this is far different from exclusively watching others play it.
To each their own, I suppose.
However, I believe many video game developers have noticed this whole “I’d-rather-watch-than-play” trend. Consequently, a lot of developers are creating and releasing intentionally poor-quality games in an attempt to have it popularized by big Let’s Players. There have been instances of games with stick-figure graphics, poor audio, no plot and very low overall quality. Developers put in minimal effort to design a game with 10 minutes of gameplay for potentially enormous profit. An example of this is NotGTAV, a game based off the popular franchise, Grand Theft Auto. The difference here is the hand-drawn graphics and intended mere 20 minutes of gameplay. This is only a $3 game, sure, but what gets me is the fact that 88 percent of reviews for this game are positive, according to Steam.
“Haha, look how bad this game is. I can talk trash about this game throughout my entire video, and my audience is going to think I’m hilarious,” is the thought I imagine goes through the head of many of these entertainers. There are a ton of Let’s Players out there, and once one of them creates a video popularizing the game, others will follow and do the same.
Now it’s gotten to a point where millions of people have seen or at least heard of the game. A single video created by popular Let’s Players like PewDiePie or Markiplier can generate several million views. There is a pretty consistent audience of 2 million viewers on each of their videos, with some videos being more popular than others. That’s millions of people who will potentially buy it.
Say a new game is nearing the end of development, and the developers give a popular Let’s Player early access to advertise its release. The video the Let’s Player creates gets 4 million views. If only 1 percent of the viewing audience thought the game was good enough to commit to buying, that’s still 40,000 people buying the game. Multiply that by the price of the game and that’s a substantial amount of profit by gifting a single copy of the game to a content creator.
It’s not a very complicated system, but it works. It makes money, and that’s all that matters in the eyes of many developers. Thus, they feel no need to make quality content, and after scrolling through the games listed on Steam’s marketplace, this seems to be what 90 percent of games are today.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still truly good games being released. This simply appears to be an exceedingly rare occurrence.
However, when I do run into something that interests me, more often than not, the release date will be more than a year later. I’d consider myself a fairly patient person, but this is frustrating. Developers like to hype people up for a game that is in one of the earliest stages of production. After all, this allows the development team to rack up more money from customers pre-ordering the game.
Pre-ordering, by the way, is something I must highly advise against. There have been multiple times where I decided to pre-order a game and then only ended up having a few hours of playtime. As I mentioned before, it’s a good idea to see the content before you commit to paying for it. It would be easier to avoid pre-ordering if developers didn’t throw in extra incentives for doing so. “Pre-order now to get this exclusive content you’ll never be able to get again.” For example, those who pre-ordered Resident Evil 5 would receive a free snow globe with the main characters inside. Many considered this a boring pre-order bonus, but I would greatly prefer this than what you’ll likely get now for a pre-order. More often than not, the bonus will be something like a new cosmetic item for your character or an exclusive level or part of a map that allows you 10 additional minutes of gameplay. “Ooh! I get to make the main character wear a white suit instead of the black one!” This was the bonus given for pre-ordering Hitman. These incentives will create many more purchases than there would have been if the customer could have seen gameplay before buying.
Another thing contributing to the downfall of gaming, specifically with the Steam marketplace, is the false review system. You can easily find the “hot new games” that have been recently released. Valve is fairly good at keeping games with high reviews on this list. However, I’ve noticed many of the items on the list are the previously mentioned “intentionally bad” games. Why are these being allowed on the list of games with positive reviews? Simply because players are leaving positive reviews as a joke. Thankfully, you can see how long the reviewer has actually played the game. They’ll post something like: “10/10. Best game I’ve ever played. Definitely recommended.” Yet, it will show they’ve played it for less than 10 minutes. Like the game I mentioned before, NotGTAV, someone left a review saying “I had five copies of it and sent to friends. I don’t have friends anymore. 10/10.” These people have been perpetuating this same joke for years, and still find it funny. Unfortunately, this has completely butchered the review system.
There are tons of developers making games independently. However, this is something that has evolved into attempts of generating revenue rather than entertainment.