Like it or not, video games have carved a place for themselves in the mainstream. More people are playing games now than ever before, elevating it to one of the world’s most treasured past times and one of the best ways to immerse ourselves in visceral combat or captivating stories.
For all of its progress, though, the video game industry still fails miserably in a few significant ways. Below are five of the things that video games still do poorly.
Maybe I’ve been spoiled by awesome TV shows like Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones, but I’ve lost a lot of respect for franchises that treat morality like a coin flip. We may decide for ourselves whether a given course of action is “right” or not, but it’s just that: a personal choice.
For the most part, morality in video games exists in a sort of shadow world, where everything is frustratingly black and white. For example: do you save the bus full of innocent civilians, or do you let them fall off the bridge because you need to pursue the villain?
The problem lies not in the fact that the choice exists, but in the way game insists on painting you in either a positive or negative light afterward, turning a difficult moral choice into little more than the addition or removal of digital karma points.
Even games like Mass Effect, which are built around moral choices, are guilty of this kind of clumsy dichotomy. So far, the most morally ambiguous game I’ve had the pleasure of playing is Telltale Games’ excellent Walking Dead series.
It seems to be one of the unwritten laws of the universe that licensed video games need to be phoned-in crap from lousy developers. By “licensed” we mean a video game based on a film, comic book, or television show. There is a long history of terrible licensed games, and it looks right now like there’s no end in sight.
Thankfully, there’s a small handful of developers who seem committed to reversing this trend. The aforementioned Airtight Games is among them, as is Rocksteady, the makers of the Batman Arkham series.
There was a time when we seemed to be blaming video games for the reckless driving habits of teenagers. Now we blame them every time some unbalanced, disenchanted kid shoots up a school. Neither argument holds much water for me. Frankly, if your child can’t tell the difference between real life and fantasy, then your failures as a parent have nothing at all to do with video games.
The funny thing is, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some impressionable kid played a round of Mario Kart or stole a car in Grand Theft Auto and then wrapped their mother’s very real Camry around a telephone pole. Have you ever driven a motorcycle in GTA? It’s a crash course (pun intended) in frustration. With space-age technology going into the physics engines of modern video games, it’s downright hilarious that driving mechanics in video games still have so little to do with reality.
If you’re reading this right now, you’ve almost certainly seen all of the Star Wars movies. Many times, most likely. Even if it’s been years since you saw them, I’ll bet you could whistle at least one of John Williams’ iconic themes if you had to.
Those movies are the perfect example of how intrinsically linked the orchestral score was with what we were seeing onscreen. The music became as much a part of the experience as the characters.
Video games have yet to catch up with movies in that regard. There are plenty of film scores that I could listen to again and again on their own (The Dark Knight trilogy comes to mind, along with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies). Video game soundtracks, though, are terribly lacking in this respect. Only recently have developers taken the hint and begun to hire world-class talent, as when Airtight Games tapped The Walking Dead’’s Bear McCreary to score Dark Void or when BioWare borrowed Clint Mansell for Mass Effect 3.
Women in video games have historically been under- or misrepresented. It’s no secret that the gaming community is mostly comprised of men (this isn’t sexist – it’s true), though that number has been inching closer towards a 50-50 split for years now.
For a time, that fact accounted for the well-endowed, scantily-clad caricatures that, until recently, nearly every video game female held to. Stand-outs included Alex Vance from Half-Life 2, Jade from Beyond Good and Evil and Morrigan from Dragon Age. Aside from that, strong female characters are still woefully absent.
People like Sony’s Shannon Studstill are leading the charge toward a more enlightened view of women in video games. Calling it sexism isn’t untrue, but it puts a wholly unnecessary label on something that should come as naturally as breathing. Just remember the immortal words of George R.R. Martin when he was asked why he had so many great female characters in his books: “You know, I’ve always considered women to be people.”Google+