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Activision replaces innovation with repetition in games

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Let’s talk about how video gaming used to be. Games were works of art — they held their own. They had memorable characters and engrossing storylines, but most importantly, they connected us emotionally to a different world that we could become a part of. For a second now, let’s just remember how we wanted to live in Hyrule, how we wanted to be in the realm of the Final Fantasy series, and — even further back — how we found depth in the simplicity of Super Mario and Sonic. What happened?

Technology and video gaming have an interesting relationship. Increases in processing power and graphics capabilities of newer consoles have allowed for the creation of larger, more immersive worlds. However, it often appears as if these popular new games have replaced imagination with technology. Instead of a deep story line with multi-faceted characters, it’s a great depth of field and multi-faceted textures that are touted. And with the number of sequels that have been released in the past few years, it seems that companies are just squeezing out the successes of an older series to the last penny.

How many games of Call of Duty do we need to play before we realize how unremarkable the impact of the game really was? Granted, it’s fun to shoot your friends, but that sometimes seems to be the game’s only appeal. Perhaps technology is stepping on the toes of creativity. Take Guitar Hero as an example. What was the number of sequels and spin-offs? If you answered “more than enough,” then it comes as no surprise that Activision has finally closed the division responsible for the series after reports of falling sales. Guitar Hero was once renowned for its challenge, competitiveness, and innovative style, but the novelty of the game declined with increasing varieties and prices of controllers and song selections that only seemed to worsen with each series. With new sequels and game expansions being released within the same year, it is no wonder that the interest in Guitar Hero began to decline.

Furthermore, Activision has recently announced the revival of Spyro the Dragon — a name that anyone growing up in the ’90s would recognize. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is the newest title in the series. So, great, another sequel that only leads us to wonder what the improvement will be. Will it be more polygons, or maybe some interactivity with a sensor bar? Hold on to these two sensors and flap your arms to make Spyro fly! As it turns out, Activision will also be releasing a line of plastic figurines that will act as a sort of portable save file for a player’s character. The player can carry around this figurine and put it on a stand that will recognize the save file stored in the figurine and convert it into a playable character in the game.

Wait a minute — this seems similar to something else far more common. Being able to play as your own character with your friends without having to start a new game if you’re not playing on your own system? Having some sort of save file that can be accessed anywhere? Aha! These are just your standard Internet login accounts, commercialized into plastic gimmicks, with the anticipation that they would seem like an innovation to video gaming.

Maybe Activision is targeting younger audiences by combining video games with toys, but the figurines do not seem to add anything to the game itself. What fans of gaming don’t want are more components that may not enhance the gaming experience. The figurines themselves say nothing about the game. It could very well be the most captivating and enjoyable Spyro game in the series. But this is a time when technology does not exactly equal improvement.
There was once a time when video games were promoted for their playability, rather than the auxiliary items that one would have to purchase in order to play the game. There was also a time when games, even within a series, had distinct qualities that made them memorable. Of course, nostalgia is a cunning troublemaker to the companionship of memory.

But in the world of video games, I’d soon trade a tangible object for another chance to say goodbye to Saria. Admittedly, we are in an experimental period in gaming technology, as we try to bridge interactivity with video gaming. It may seem as if companies are hanging on to older franchises, but the future of video gaming is something we will always eagerly anticipate.