Profit-driven games far from consoling

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Author: Will Westwater

The new Play Station console hit the shelves Friday, and fans are lining up, ready to shell out money for the latest piece of technology. I thought I would be one of those people. But, when I was turned away from getting Sony’s shiny new sold-out PS4, I felt indifference rather than disappointment. Recently released games such as “Batman: Arkham Origins” and “Call of Duty: Ghosts” have failed to wow me, and games coming out for the PS4 may be equally lackluster. It is time to look critically at the state of the video game industry.

I love video games. Every art form is unique, but video games are one of the few art forms that allow for a sort of immersion in a different world. A player can get lost in a good game: explore an open world, be a star athlete, have superpowers and more. Video games, when done correctly, allow for escapism, a chance to check out and engage the mind in something different. As I have grown older, I have realized that the video game industry is like all other industries: Most involved are there to make money. I don’t blame them for that. But it can be hard to produce original, creative content when thinking about the cost and return on an investment.

Video games are becoming an increasingly expensive hobby. New video games cost $60 for almost every triple-A console title. Additional costs include map packs, playable characters, additional story-lines, other download content (DLC) and the most dreaded of all – online passes. The new systems are expensive; the PS4 is $400 and Microsoft’s new Xbox One, which releases Friday, is $500 dollars. Video game makers justify these prices by citing rising production costs. As video games get more complex, more programmers, artists and computers are needed to create them. These cost issues force developers to churn out sequels that are slowly losing their fan-base due to repetition and lack of creativity.

Aside from the obvious technological improvements that come with new consoles and PC power, there are hidden benefits. As the gap between big budget and independent games grows, so does the ability for people and small teams of independent developers to make their own games. Games like “Super Meat Boy,” “Braid” and “Hotline Miami” have been made by small teams with love and dedication, and while some of these games are not as technologically impressive as most triple-A titles, they pack more creativity than the 10th iteration of a “Call of Duty” game.

Triple-A titles and sequels are not all bad. “Grand Theft Auto,” “The Last of Us” and “Bioshock Infinite” proved to be creative and original additions to the video game world. Games like this do not come out yearly but will last and make an impression for years to come. Players of those games will not have the fear that their investments will be out of date in a year, when the next iteration of a game inevitably comes out.

Right now there are no games that are good enough to justify the cost of these new systems. Now is the time to play some incredible independent, used or cheap games from the last console generation. Playing these games will allow players to not only have a great holiday season, but will also give the new consoles a chance to gain some traction with games that justify the $400 or $500 console cost. ‘Tis the season to game responsibly and control what kind of content gets pushed to the top. Play smart.

Will Westwater is an undeclared sophomore. He can be reached at westwater@oxy.edu, or follow him on Twitter @WeeklyWest.

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