There is a special art within the world of creating video games that doesn’t get enough respect. It is an art form even beyond me, something requiring so much craft and so much effort that it is almost too much for a simple video game journalist to tackle with only a column about making a perfect game.
When I conquered Christmas, it got me thinking about something. Sure, it is easy to slap together something that is easily digestible to non-gamers, but what is the formula for making actual gamers buy into it? The Perfect Christmas game would have been a terrible mess that all us super awesome real gamers would have sniffed out for what it was and mocked heavily, but sometimes a game slips past our defenses. Sometimes there’s a game with little substance, more style than you can shake a stick at, and the X-factor we call fanboyism. Sometimes that game gets put on a pedestal it may not entirely deserve.
Game of the Year 20$$
This is more difficult than most because it isn’t simply creating one game. This is creating an entire series of games. Most games that became overrated don’t do it as a one shot or as a stand-alone; they get overrated because fans and journalists are blinded by the developer’s previous pedigree and their enjoyment of the series to that point. Halo 2 got fantastic scores despite being much of the same of the original Halo, on top of offering one of the least fulfilling single player experiences possible. The original all but held the gaming world hostage when it came out, and Halo 2 rode its wave of goodwill into better scores and more positivity than it would have if it were an unknown game with no preceding title. Acclaim -the critical type, not the company – is weird like that.
Halo 2: loved by the blind?
So the very first requisite is to create a splash with a fantastic debut. This is because, generally speaking, the sequel holds the biggest chance of being either overrated or a flat out flop. Sequel syndrome strikes in every form of entertainment, and video games are certainly no different. This isn’t to say that sequels can never be good, or that the third game in a series is never a train wreck, but it is a good rule of thumb.
Sometimes a game becomes insanely overrated.
Without a doubt, the series would have to be a first person shooter. This is the genre du jour of the gaming world and has been for a while now. Personally, I would like to see more cyberpunk games come into existence – I still play games like Dystopia and Uplink regularly – so this is going to be a cyberpunk shooter. Either way, a major release of a large scale, objective-based FPS with flashy graphics would probably do well – especially if the multiplayer was done well. Single-player experiences in shooter games have taken a back seat to the multiplayer, and our perfect overrated game will certainly buy into that trend. The very first game, the one that isn’t trying to be overrated, will still feature a decent plot. The cyberpunk genre’s advanced weaponry and dystopian world will lend itself to creating a fairly engrossing plot with an interesting twist or two. Experimenting with lead characters that don’t survive the game would be a good move too. Game journalists love that kind of stuff. Trust me.
Taking the Unity Out of Community
So we’ve created our first game, a futuristic cyberpunk shooter with advanced graphics, a decent story, lots of computer hacking, but with more focus on the multiplayer than anything else. Now, however, we have to create the money maker. We have to create an entirely overrated experience for everybody involved. The kind of game that wins game of the year awards despite having a list of glaring problems.
Assassin’s Creed’s marketing campaign redefined the word ’incessant’.
The first thing we have to do is pump as much money into advertising and hype as possible. For some reason, video game critics seem to believe the hype more than other entertainment critics. Pumping tons of money into the hype machine will make sure the game isn’t far removed from the public’s consciousness at anytime. It will also grease the tracks for critics to give the game a good score simply because they know, whether or not they actually enjoyed it, the general public did. Why trust your own opinion and go against the herd?
Beyond advertising dollars, alienating as much of your original audience as possible would be the next step. This means that if the original was on Xbox 360 then make sure you water down the sequel’s interaction with Xbox Live. A PlayStation 3 title? Making it graphically buggy or easy to exploit would be a good start. For a PC original, you would make this game as much like a console release as possible; neuter the graphics, eliminate the ability to run your own server, and dumb down the control scheme that worked superbly before.
Step 3 wouldn’t be a question mark; it would be the single-player. Now, with the first title that actually did well, although the story was good the single-player was still an afterthought compared to the multiplayer. We need to make that even more obvious with this title. Instead of doing something interesting and original with the story, this time around we make it as clichéd as possible. Ridiculously unbelievable characters, endless nonsensical plot twists, and making every level an outtake from a cyberpunk Michael Bay movie would accomplish that.
Finally, and this is the most important part, we’d need to show a certain level of contempt for our community. These are the people who went out and spent their hard-earned money on the game (and the original), so we must make sure to not listen to anything they have to say about the games problems. Make sure our liaison to the fans is as unlikeable and dishonest as you can find through a Monster job search. Also, if we made any promises during our enormous advertising blitz, better make sure none of that actually comes to fruition.
Did we promise innovative multiplayer? Well, make sure there are dozens of exploits and bugs that make the whole thing insanely frustrating. At any point, did someone mention the game was unhackable? Well certainly, considering this is a game about hacking, the irony of it being easy to screw with wouldn’t be lost on anybody. None of this will matter in the end because we will be too busy sleeping on a gigantic bed made of money to fix any of these problems. Even with the huge glaring list of issues, the game will still win countless Game of the Year awards and be incredibly well received. Very few reviewers will actually speak their mind and use these very real problems to hurt the score and go against misplaced public sentiment.
I guess the last thing to do would be to name it. What would I and my team of developers call this overrated Internet-hacking based game? Modem Warfare 2, of course.