Why we Need More - Games and game journalism are all about getting more
Sentient readers will have noticed the collective wetting fit the gaming world had this week as Halo creator Bungie deigned upon us new information about its upcoming...something, Destiny.
There was vague talk of it being a first-person "shared world" shooter, taking place on Earth and featuring different character classes. But despite the Destiny reveal imparting less information than the Somerton Man's corpse, websites, comment sections and Twitter feeds have been exploding with goss about what the scant few details might mean.
Good marketing, I suppose, but also bloody depressing.
There's a pervasive attitude, it seems, from developers on down, that More is important. For players, games are about having more content, more to unlock and more to do; for game makers, it's more guns, more maps and more iterations. For, game journalists, it's more juice - more sexy headlines and titillating half facts. We aren't alone in our quest for a hot story, but too often it's reporting rather than critiquing - new rather than old - that captures the minds of the gaming press.
The world of videogaming is obsessed with More. A hint of rumour in a headline is met with adulation from More-hungry readers; reviewers, writing for the bum-brain end of the critical spectrum, will clap their hands red over a lengthy campaign and some fat DLC. 100 percent completion trophies, feature creep and hype pieces - all these things point to a More obsession in videogames that's steadily corroding the very medium.
Because on the quest for more, more, more we pass over smart games that may already exist in favour of upcoming ones which might mean nothing.
Writing on Twitter, Brendan Keogh, author of Killing is Harmless, summed up the pandemic reaction to Destiny, saying: "The problem isn't previews. The problem is people want to read about games that aren't out yet instead of the ones that are." And it's the gaming press and the gaming industry that have driven people to that point.
I find it alarming that so many heads are turned towards teaser trailers and concept art when we've barely started thinking about games from one or two or three years ago.
Partly, it's because games are technological, and as anyone reading this on an IBM 5150 will tell you, technology loses its value as it gets older. By nature of their graphics engines, animation systems and so on, videogames come with a short lifespan built-in, and just as we upgrade to a better model of mobile phone, so too do we commit to "better" games.
But games are also cultural - they're literate and meaningful and need attention to be properly understood. By constantly stepping on stones, to the next game and the next game and the next game, we, players and writers, are missing things out.
On our quest for More, we burn our heritage down as we go, discarding old games with cultural value in favour of new ones with More technical currency. And we shouldn't, because games aren't smartphones or digital cameras. Despite all the marketing pump about this new one, not last year's one being the one you need, games are actually more like books or films or theatre than consumer electrics, and rather than devaluing in age, they should gain more merit as time moves on.
We shouldn't be so quick to ask for seconds. Not only does it make videogames feel cheap and disposable, and, creatively, react in turn to that stigma, it also lessens our understanding.
The quest for More, the knack of judging games and news-worthiness based on quantity, is actually giving us less. It's setting a precedent whereby our critical response to a game becomes increasingly shallow, as we pick through it quickly and move onto the next one. It also gives us a less nuanced experience of playing; if I had spent my time in Skyrim dashing around trying to see More of everything, I wouldn't have properly appreciated the smaller amount of things I did see.
Just as the worlds of literature and cinema both have extensive, well-trodden cannons, I think game writers and players need to focus more on developing a better understanding of worthy, existing works, than paying attention to every new bit of tinsel.
Because if not, then that progeria, that advanced, rapid aging which makes games seem quick and throwaway and cheap, is going to continue. Instead of speculating on what might come out, or what More we might be getting, it's better to replay and reevaluate what exists already.
Earlier this week, the internet went mad for 14 shots of concept art and less than twenty seconds of game footage; today I spent half an hour scrutinising a cryptic Ubisoft press invite like it was a new Zodiac letter. Games don't have to be like this. There's enough intellectual nutrients in them to warrant methodical and contemplative approaches without asking for More all the time.