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27 September 2012 @ 06:08 pm
matters of scale  
The current size of games is unfortunate.

Perhaps it comes from my heyday of game-playing being on the PS2 and original playstation, but I find myself frustrated with the scale on which games are created. This came to mind as I was watching a trailer for Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, a Square Enix RPG for the 3DS- ten or more years ago, a game of this quality and style would have been on a home console, rather than a handheld.

The same goes for a lot of games. Something like Bastion or Braid wouldn't just have been for purchase over Steam or download-based play, it would have likely seen a release in stores, on a physical medium. Most of the new Kingdom Hearts games would fit on the PS2 just as well as Kingdom Hearts 2 did. Games like Peace Walker and Silent Hill 0rigins actually ended up making the leap to consoles after their lifespan on the PSP.

And I realize that this is complicated. As AAA home console releases, would these games even have come out? We don't know. Over time, the costs and scales of AAA games have gone up and up, along with the length, the amount of content, the quality of graphics and sound. The barrier of entry is higher. In proportion, handheld games have increased in all of these dimensions but remained at a smaller scale, comparable to jumping back one home console generation. Indie games, too, have scaled up in size and quality, using the graphical and other limitations of older generations as an aesthetic choice or a decision based around budget, the two reasons often merging and blending. People love callbacks to 16-bit, and it's easier to produce. Cynical, perhaps, but everyone comes out of it happy.

I guess the problem is that I prefer smaller-scale games. Now, I don't necessarily mean shorter games, though it comes with the territory. I'm also aware that this is almost definitely a degree of nostalgia bias talking.

But I hate playing games that could have been for a console on my computer or a handheld device. It's small. It's fiddly. The controls are never as pleasant to use as the controls on a proper console, and with the exception of The World Ends With You these games are barely ever optimized to the idiosyncrasies of the consoles they're on. My lack of a credit card and consistent money in my Paypal means it's way harder to buy computer games than it is physical copies of games, with the bonus of my computer being a piece of junk that miserably chugs its way through working when I just want to play Saints Row 3. I do not own a phone that can actually play games intended for phones, and I don't know if/when I ever will. Once again, this runs up against the fact that my money situation makes it nigh impossible to pay for games that come as direct downloads. I'm much less likely to buy a handheld console than a home console- they have shorter lifespans as physical hardware and in the world of game development, and they are irritating to use, as mentioned.

So of course, this leaves me unable to purchase and support games I'd actually like, were they on a console that wasn't miserable for me to play on. And the thing is, I do have a lot of affection for smaller-scale games, the ones with production values on par with the games of my childhood. The ones that are seen as low-budget, indie, worthy of handheld consoles. I don't need hyperrealism and online play and gigantic environments and five million choices and an open world on everything I play. There's a time and place for Skyrims and Mass Effects and GTA IVs, but that's not all I want out of the games industry. I know what the AAA industry does to itself. The budgets and stakes are so high on this scale that the variety and creativity of older generations has atrophied in favor of massive hits or gigantic flops, much like the film industry. Sequels and spin-offs are even more standard than usual, and while I'm a long-term player of game series and sequels, I can see that what's happened is outright unhealthy.

I just want console games to take a step back. Scale back down. Invite titles that would have been handheld or download-based back to the big kids table. Maybe we can get more Deadly Premonitions and less Dead Spaces this way.

Or maybe I'm falling prey to the nostalgia bias I've always loathed. You tell me.