Creativity Isn’t Something Gamers Should Have To Ask For
Hideo Kojima thinks original ideas are thin on the ground right now. He’s probably right, too. Speaking to OPM, Metal Gear Solid’s creator said these words:
“I think it’s more consumer demand – right now, consumers are happy with what they have. First-person shooters sell like crazy, so there’s not really a strong demand for anything else, and that’s why [original ideas] stop being made.
“People are satisfied with making minor upgrades and tweaking things here and there – as long as that’s the landscape, it will keep on happening. I don’t see a problem necessarily, but at the same time it is nice to see new things come.”
I can see his point. I know where he’s coming from. I even agree in some ways. But there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of a creative on show here, at least as far as I’m concerned.
It shouldn’t be the job of creatives to merely provide what the masses want. As Henry Ford, creator of the first mass-produced, affordable automobiles said: “if I had asked people what they want, they would have said ‘faster horses’.”
Generally speaking, people will want more of the same – more of what they know they like – just done better. I’m guilty of this – we all are. It’s natural, and why wouldn’t it be? You play a game that you enjoy, why wouldn’t you want to play something similar, just done a bit better?
You enjoyed Batman: Arkham Asylum, why wouldn’t you want it to be the same again on a bigger scale in Arkham City? GTA III was excellent, but wouldn’t it be better if it was the same again but with elements like motorbikes? Vice City answered that cry for a faster horse.
But then familiarity sets in and disappointment follows. When our brains say we want more of the same – when our gut says ‘more; done better’ – it isn’t always right. And we don’t always realise this until we play the More; Done Better game. We don’t always realise that Uncharted 3, great as it is, feels a bit too familiar to the last game. We don’t always know that Modern Warfare will become quite tiresome, even if it does retain its maddeningly addictive traits. We’re just not sure that these yearly, incremental updates to FIFA will end up causing more harm than good, though it remains the best footy game on PS3.
In short – we don’t always know what we want, even if we’re sure we do. It’s up to those making the games to show us what it is we really want to play; those who have the power should wield it smartly, and for our benefit.
This is fantasist territory, it has to be said. Money makes the industry tick over, and money flows liberally from the creative voids that are first-person shooters, endless licensed tie-ins and whatever other flavour-of-the-month, ‘fast food of gaming’ crap we’re happy to shovel down our throats.
Publishers might not be serving consumers in the most creatively fulfilling or intellectually stimulating manner possible, but they are doing it in a way that bags them what they want it to bag them: moolah. Dosh. Cashola. Wonga.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as anyone who casts even a cursory glance at the games industry beyond the AAA hits will know. The indie scene is thriving – possibly stronger than it’s ever been – and between the four hundred billion rip-offs of Bird Flinger 2000 and Man Dodger 900 there are plenty of interesting, exciting and genuinely creative games. Some even coming from actual, real life bedroom coders.
In the part of the industry Sony is apparently trying to cultivate – to help grow through its Pub Fund in order to put games on PSN – there are games we’ve always wanted to play. We just didn’t know we wanted to play them. We just wanted faster horses.