The Geek Critique: A Role Worth Playing   Leave a comment

Jon Shell asked, “What is it about role-playing game elements that you do not like?”

Role-playing games, or RPGs, are often characterized by their emphasis on huge worlds, sweeping storylines, and of course, level grinding. There’s so much to see and do and explore. I could conceivably play a game like “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” for 80 hours and still not be totally “done” with it.

However, I don’t find exploring and questing and leveling up to be all that fun for very long. Most RPGs are built to reward the player with things like story and adventure for how much time they’re willing to invest.

I like a game that’ll reward me not for how much time I put into it, but for how skillful I become at it, and that’s a huge distinction.

Steven Barry said, “I am truly befuddled as to why gamers continually dish out money for new ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Madden’ games, when they’re essentially the same games as previous releases under the same name. What is it about these titles that draw so many ‘gamers’ to waste their money on the same game over and over again?”

First of all, your dismissal of these people as being unworthy of being called “gamers” is something I’d like to address.

A gamer is anyone who defines themselves as such, and just because someone doesn’t prefer the same kind of games as you do is no reason to try and make them feel inferior as gamers.

Nonetheless, I see where you’re coming from. It’s interesting that the two games you chose to mention come from developers Activision and Electronic Arts, respectively.

Those two corporations have become the poster children in recent years for lazily releasing minor upgrades to their core games every single year.

Still, the sales numbers don’t lie, do they? “Call of Duty” and “Madden” are immensely popular, and I think I know why.

Each yearly release of a new game is, in fact, not at all the same as the previous.

Certainly, they’re iterations around the same basic concept, but to the millions of fans of these two series, they’re also constantly making improvements.

To a non-fan, seeing gameplay footage of 2007’s surprise hit, “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” and 2011’s “Modern Warfare 3” back-to-back wouldn’t look like a whole lot of innovation.

To someone who is deeply encroached in the iconography, story and online metagame of the series, the massive improvements and differences between the two are, indeed, worth having.

The same goes for “Madden.” I haven’t played a football game since “Sega Sports” was sold off, but EA is always hyping some kind of new improvement or change in the way its new “Madden” game works.

What your question really points to is a fundamental difference in the way the video game industry is now, versus how it once was.

Of all the games to be this incredibly popular, why is it the uber-realistic football simulator and the gritty war simulator?

That’s where innovation is lacking in the industry.

Too many games are trying to be nothing but realistic because younger gamers (who do, for better or worse, make up a huge portion of “Call of Duty”‘s fans) will deride anything too cartoony or too innovative as being “gay.” And that’s terrible.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with football sims or war games, but I wish we still got the really weird stuff, like robots playing soccer and unmanned unicycles racing in space.

Questions? Comments? Am I missing something when it comes to RPGs? Send ‘em all to, and join the Geek Critique Facebook page!


Posted February 1, 2012 by positivejosh in Uncategorized

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