Critical Hit | Videogame Déjà Vu

By André Eriksson 06.12.2015

Déjà vu - that feeling that one thing has happened before, yet you are certain it has not. It is a relatively common feeling that someone has experienced something or seen something before that they have never actually seen; that they recognise what they could have never possibly been exposed to before. I have had that feeling several times during my life, and I have it from time to time, even to this day, and it occurs every time I start up a 'new' AAA title...
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Sometimes I buy a Triple-A game. Perhaps because I am genuinely interested in it or a friend has been on at me for ages to get it, so I finally caved after their 1,439,549th insistence that this truly is the best game ever made and that it feels fresh and new, and might even revolutionise its genre. Peer pressure is a strong thing, isn't it? Slightly excited with all the good reviews and word-of-mouth about it from people close to me, I sit down and start it up...and every time I am met with the same feeling.

I start to feel like I have a mental issue. Each and every time I start up a brand-new AAA title, I can't get rid of the feeling that I have played the exact game before. The mechanics feels familiar and the setting is almost identical to something I can picture experiencing before. Déjà vu is the official term, yet I call it an uninspired AAA-filled gaming industry.

The feeling left afterwards is usually one of disappointment. I bought this brand new game to experience something new, something exciting. However, in the end it is exactly like half-a-dozen other titles I have on my shelf at home. Bored and annoyed, I turn off the game and put it on the shelf, likely to never be played again. £50/$60 for a pretty shelf decoration - what a waste! I am sure I will fall for the same trap again, though…

Why does it have to be like this? All game ideas can't have been explored already, surely? There must be other settings and flavours for a story than the typical ones often presented in AAA action titles, right? It feels like the AAA industry is in a creative crisis, but not due to the lack of creativity, per se, more because of the lack of drive to dare to stand out from the masses.

How can it be that the other side of the industry, the indie studios, bombard us with creative, fresh and exciting ideas that, while usually poorly executed due to lack of resources, offer a unique and memorable experience? We never see anything other than 50 shades of boring grey and brown backgrounds from the AAA industry… The answer is 'security.' However, is that security worth it to take away all cultural value from a rapidly growing media form? Is it worth it to make games by copy-pasting the previously made game and just upping the graphical output slightly? I, personally, do not think so, and I am sick and tired of starting up my brand new game just to feel that I have played it half a dozen times already.

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It wouldn't have been as much of a problem if it was just titles in the same franchise that were like this. I get that a franchise must have a similar feeling to it to not alienate its fan-base. I do buy the latest Monster Hunter because I liked the previous one, and I am expecting something similar to it, but when every single game in an entire genre starts to feel like the same game, it starts to become boring and problematic - even worse when it starts crossing borders into other genres.

I admit that I might be damaged by the three-digit number of games I am exposed to each year, and that that might very well have shaped my opinion on this matter. However, the problem still exists. Most AAA games released today are completely uninspired packages, offering only familiar objects rarely giving something new, which makes for a stale industry and media climate. It turns into a bad climate for cultural growth that risks keeping gaming as being seen as a lesser form of culture by culture critics, overall. It is very sad as video-gaming as a medium has potential to create fantastic and unique interactive experiences that might help people to find out more about both themselves, and the feelings of the artist, in ways most forms of media might never be able to.

Let videogames be an art form, not a science!

Do you think the videogame industry is in a creativity crisis, or is it in a healthy state right now? Leave your comments below…

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