At The Mirror’s Edge of Industry Creativity?

At The Mirror’s Edge of Industry Creativity?

Editorials

Posted on Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 at 8:00 AM by

Computer games, as much as any other medium, are mysterious things. They can stir our souls, hotwire our adrenaline glands or disappoint us to our core. For every person who plays a game there is a valid and varied opinion. It’s one of the things that make the subject of a game’s relative quality a contentious issue. You need only look at a series like Zelda to see how entrenched and vigorous the views on either side can be. However, with one particular game I found myself manning the trenches alone, against what seemed like the negative reaction of the world. That game would be Mirror’s Edge and the reaction to the game from the worldwide press and public was, more or less, completely negative. Critics decried the feeling of dislocation prompted by the 1st person-perspective free-running mechanic, while gamers objected to the perceived lack of action and the steep difficulty curb. That and motion sickness; lots and lots of motion sickness.

From this cacophony of negativity, one person seemed to voice dissent and that voice was mine.

In many ways, Mirror’s Edge and I make curious bedfellows. As a long-time devotee of RPGs and never one for twitch-based FPS reaction-fests, I should have loathed this game. No, actually, I should have had no opinion on it at all. It should, all being normal, have passed right under my radar. So why didn’t it? Well, about 12 months before the game came out, on the b side of a gaming magazine video DVD, I came across a promo video for the game and it blew me away. Haunting piano music over the top of what appeared to be frenetic, exciting and dramatic action; I watched it over and over and it made me want to play the full game. Quite a successful marketing campaign in other words. Perhaps this coloured my perception of the final product, made me more ready to accept things others would not, but I enjoyed the game. Yes it has its faults and, yes, if pushed (pretty hard, admittedly) I can perhaps acknowledge that I can see why it would be something of an anathema to FPS veterans. In today’s gaming landscape a game that doesn’t stroke that part of the brain that craves danger and combat is already a few hundred thousand sales behind before it starts.

A game in which a small girl punches a storm trooper…what’s not to like people??

The thing is, to me, a significant part of what makes it a bit special is just that: it’s a bit special, a bit different. Dice have taken a risk and, in my book, tried to create a new genre, the 1st person platformer. Maybe I’m jaded, but a game trying to break genuine new ground in gameplay paradigms, rather than introducing a single new feature to an existing tired genre, is extremely refreshing and is worthy of praise. Yes it has flaws and is by no means a masterpiece, but it does not warrant the scorn it has received. I’m puzzled as to why it’s received such a reaction too. I understand that people may not like it, but to see such objection on this scale is remarkable.

Sadly, I believe the reaction to Mirror’s Edge from the industry as a whole is an indictment of the attitude of the gaming community at large. Now, more than ever, there seems to be an intrinsic negative reaction to change, to something different. It used to be so different. In the days of the Fallouts, Monkey Islands and Baldur’s Gates of this world, development and innovation in theme, mechanic or genre was something gamers flocked to. Look at things today and the industry is very different. Games like Psychonauts (a truly inspired and quirky game) and Mirror’s Edge receive either no reaction, or a negative one. This would be understandable if they were style over substance, but they’re not. They’re competently developed and implemented products.

Baldur’s Gate was, at the time, truly innovative

So why are they being overlooked? To me, it seems to be the shift in publisher and developer dynamic that is the root cause. Games have moved from a labour of love to being a big-budget commercial undertaking, and with that has come the associated focus on marketability. Now I’m not decrying big publishers and developers as inherently evil or wrong. In many ways they have been a major impetus for progression, but it seems at a cost of more narrowing and uninspired progression.

Games have to make big money now and the best way to do that is to hit the tried and tested methods. Why change the formulae if the last game sold well? Yes, a new style may well sell more, but it could also sell less and that cannot be countenanced. This is understandable and isn’t going to change as long as purchasing trends remain as they are. And that’s the thing: purchasing trends have continued to favour the big-name template games. This is something that seems to have also changed, with public attitudes shifting to now favour the old favourites rather than innovative titles. I have no explanation for this. Perhaps marketing campaigns have taken their toll. Perhaps a young generation who have grown up with little innovation are naturally sticking to what they know and love. Maybe I’m just a crank who sees problems where there are none, who knows?

Its a metaphor for the industry view of creativity! (hint: the pin = creativity!)

All I know is that, as far as I can see, the deluge of negativity poured on Mirror’s Edge is at least somewhat unwarranted and it’s a shame to see genuine innovation dismissed out of hand in such a manner. In my view, it is better for a developer to try to develop new concepts and fail than to have released just another mediocre offering. If we lose the developers who truly try and push the envelope, the industry and, by association, we will be much worse off.

 

Angry Gaming Owl says ‘You better help!!’

I’m looking to experience and compile an archive of unusual or interesting games. I want to celebrate all that defines creativity in the gaming industry, both today and in time past. To do this I need YOUR help. Know of a quirky game you loved or a game you feel doesn’t get the recognition it deserves? Tell me about it and I will do my best to spread the word, or at the very worst, I’ll check it out! Find me on Twitter @paulizod or by email: paulizod@zero1gaming.com

ALSO, WE HAVE A NEW COMMENTS SYSTEM, SO PLEASE GIVE IT A GO AND LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF THE ARTICLES ETC! Lets get talking!

 

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About the author:

Paul Izod is a lifelong gamer. Since he was old enough to tap at his Dad's PC's keyboard he's been a gamer. Dedicated and often opinionated, you can be sure he'll always have something interesting to say about the subject at hand. Find him on Twitter at @PaulIzod

15 Comments

14 comments
Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3
Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

Also, did you know that Nintendo Gamecube had full 3D support but if Nintendo had added on the technology to do that it would've been too expensive and would've been 'Dreamcast' then. And especially since Treyarch decided to innovate on BO2, it was the perfect time to innovate- meaning that time is everything. I'm not showing any bias in this- I'm just going on with the facts and using them to my advantage. Either way though, nevertheless creativity shouldn't go unnoticed like you stated but it shouldn't be the only tool at your disposal either. The key to Nintendo's IPs is that everytime they add something new to their franchises so that even though they remain to their core, they get a gist of novelty to be distinct in today's gaming environment. And btw, I was only elaborating on your viewpoint- if I had taken it out of context that wasn't the intention. As long as a game meets gamers' needs it will be on demand. All I really meant to state was that innovation was what started this industry going and many developers and gamers forgot all about that since because they've become greedy and blind. If we don't continue making games even 1% off of what kept us on our toes, then what use are we to society if we're not doing anything to make our voices heard? If we're not doing something that can be commended and built on? That is the question I want you to answer. Without a basis for which we can continue to keep moving forward, is there even any point or purpose in continuing what we're doing if people don't like us for doing it or don't even value it for what its worth? The games I had mentioned I pointed out not because they didn't break new ground or games that don't break new ground shouldn't exist at all- it's about people knowing true gold,value, and gaming nirvana/brilliance when they see it. I only hope that in time, people will learn to look at titles such as Mirror's Edge or even Bayonetta and see that if the developer behind the game doesn't have the heart to pour all their energy into it, then the game is dead. If they don't show they care, then why should anyone else care that the game is still here? Why should anyone care about Call of Duty if no one is energizing it? Why forget about Halo, Mario, and Zelda just because they all 'look the same' as their predecessors. My main idea is that people only look at the substance and style the game takes on without investing the time to see what it has to offer and knowing for sure whether they themselves are just looking at a clone or something that makes you think and lose yourself somewhere you can express yourself. It's about the soul of it that makes the game resonate and show an ideal that expression that can only be experienced- not only seen. That is what people are missing these days, in order to know how something is or at least know how it feels you have to experience it. Games aren't about just looking interesting- they have to feel interesting and pulsate in a way that the gamer will find unforgettable and look back upon. Games aren't meant to be forgotten, they are meant to take you places and show you things from a perspective that you never thought possible. Games aren't about only doing the impossible- they are about making the impossible possible. That is the main focus I wanted to show you and in which developers have forgotten because of the fans. It's about time that developers went their own route because it's killing them and if we never made choices for ourselves, then there would be nothing left. If we don't follow the conviction that drives us to make games the way they are, then why do we expect change if we don't have the strength, integrity, valor, and honor to even be the change? That is what I wish the video game industry does before its too late, before we lose all sight of what's important and eventually have to let go. I hope I clarified my point. One last thought: this is a quote from Shigeru Miyamoto,"A delayed is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." My eventual viewpoint is that if we don't think about what our actions will cause in the long run, then we will be doomed to fail every time. We never quit on our ambitions because if we were to leave what brought us so far, we would regret it and want to wish it all back. We run for the goal, but never look back at how we reached the goal. We run for the goal with patience, but we are to never look back at the fact that we failed, but what our failures taught us. That is a big idea that I think developers have forgotten for a long time and need to get back to. that is my absolute point. The games I listed above that need recognition are still here because the developers learned from their failures and moved on to conquer the impossible. The other games are the complete opposite. Think about it and let me know what you think, Paul Izod.

 

Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3
Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

I'm not saying that only games that lack creativity or have a surplus of creativity exist. What I meant was that some people, like you had stated get so used to a certain aspect or idea that they may not see something new or novel as important because they see that particular approach a certain game may take as flawless or seemingly unbreakable because of its longevity. My point was that people don't see the forest through the trees these days. They're so used to a certain experience that when they see a new idea pop up they won't see it as groundbreaking or something with significance because it doesn't add on to what they prefer; they're not seeing the big picture, they're only centering  it on themselves. They're not taking to heart how much influence it may have or how much it can really change the landscape. I do acknowledge that in fact there are only very few games out there these days that try something new or at least attempt to go into new territory in the sense-but my perspective was that developers such as Activision are putting money above the fans that pretty much steer their success and the IP itself that gives it the recognition it has earned because of that IP. My main idea that I wanted to address was that people such as Activision lose sight of how they got to were they were and they get careless. Despite the fact that money has become too big of a focus for developers to break their shall, it shouldn't be about whether they succeed or not in the first place- it's about the fact that they took a risk and that they were the brave ones to take the step and open new opportunities and eventually open their competitors'. I don't criticize your desire for creativity- I wish myself that developers these days were go-getters like they were in gaming's infancy- what I had been outlining was that it's about the journey. It's all in favor of your chances- you have the tools, you know the right people, now make a game that will catch people's attention and give them a new perspective. I did understand the big idea you had been conveying in your article though-regardless though that I've actually never played Mirror's Edge and have only seem some footage, I know exactly what you're talking about. I'm only saying that developers should learn to utilize their tools to their advantage. I mean, look at 343 industries- Frank O'Connor said that there was a lot of untapped power in the Xbox 360 and that there is still life left in it. In fact, Michel Ancel, the mastermind behind Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil, even said that the Nintendo Wii U gave them a lot to work with due to its 1 GB or RAM and the GPU. That is the kind of discovery I'm talking about- people choosing not to conform with the industry standards and go beyond their expectations- like NIntendo did with the Wii and Naughty Dog is doing with The Last of Us. My intention wasn't at all to alter your meaning and try to satisfy my ambitions- I was just making a point and supporting your argument. Sure, taking risks costs money but in the long run it pays off because developers learn new ways to leverage their resources and form new experiences that wouldn't have been possible if they hadn't taken that chance. That is what I had been addressing when I listed those games. People don't necessarily want a game without creativity in place or developers just want to trash away their games, I think it's a matter of longevity being their worst enemy. If developers don't have any ideas to progress their creation, then they just milk it out so that they don't have to put up with the disappointment later- not that I know that for a fact but it is a likely motive for someone in Activision's position supposedly. It's not that I was stating the games I had mentioned don't have creativity- it's just that fans didn't like the direction it had taken and wish it had conformed to their  old ways. Developers are basically afraid of innovation because if they stray too far from what made a game exceptional, then they lose fans, they lose money, they eventually lose business- which is why developers these days may tend to be Call of Duty clones instead of going their own route because like you said- if one developer's decision brings them success, then others will follow suit because it's all about  the competition and they want to remain relevant. Look at the Wii, in response to it Microsoft made the Kinect and Sony made the Sixaxis controller. Believe it or not, fact for thought, if Sony or Microsoft had taken the patent held by Tom Quinn in which he had the technology that was eventually used for the Wii, Nintendo would've been 'Dreamcast'. This is the particular action I'm talking about that I wish developers would open up to and see what they're missing- take the 'Tom Quinn's patent' case for instance(if u wanna kno more bout it go to CVG or jus google bout it). Who knows if motion controls had been shown sooner, people would  be more accustomed to change and would've never shown hate towards titles such as Mirror's Edge. And if I were the publisher at stake here, I would go with new ideas all the way because staying the same isn't my character and isn't the business model that's successful anymore. 

Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3
Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

Some games i want you to spread the word are Mario, Zelda, Halo, Metal Gear Solid( or jus Metal Gear), Assassin's Creed, Splinter Cell, Bioshock, Metroid Prime, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Yoshi's Island, Remember Me, ZombiU, and lastly, Animal Crossing. One more thing, make sure to note this in your analysis on these games and any others I forgot to mention: In the midst of the innovation needed to keep a game/franchise alive and the expectation of the fans that want that game to remain alive, what counts most towards its existence is the  genius/mastermind/developer of the game/franchise  has the conviction to steer his/her/their creation in the direction desired and follow the vision that will keep it true to what made it the prominent the force that keeps it significant in the first place and never lose sight of the imagination and perseverance that went into forming it into a masterpiece that stood on its own rock with the integrity that will be left unshaken so it can stand the test of time.

alextweedehands
alextweedehands

Really good read!  I think it got reviewed better than what you give credit for, but the general point that companies play it safe and churn out sequel after sequel is worrying really, in terms of originality in games - eventually we're going to get sick of it.  Maybe it has something to do with this generation of online multiplayer, the need to play the same game as your friends, it's pretty tough to put your finger on it isn't it!?

PaulIzod
PaulIzod

 @gam3r1o1 Welllllll, I'm sensing some sarcasm there my friend. A fair few of those games do indeed have plenty of creativity in them (dear god not Zelda mind...) 

However, I fear you somewhat mistook my point by extrapolating it to its extreme. I am not at all suggesting any game that is not breaking complete new ground is worthless, I'm only decrying the severe reduction in industry creativity. You surely must concede that there are far more 'cookie-cutter' games these days than there were in previous gaming generations? 

If you're suggesting my desire for creativity is unreasonable when taken as a business view, I believe i touched on that in my article. going with what has worked previously is the natural and understandable approach when you're tasked with making money. Indeed, were I running the publishers and developers, I suspect i would take the same path. that, however, does not make the diminishing return of variety and fresh ideas palatable....

PaulIzod
PaulIzod

@alextweedehands I think online gaming is arguably the latest in the chain of game features trends I talk about in the article. Interesting to see if the next one to catch on will be a similar feature or a completely different one as a reactionary move against this one. On mirrors edge, I felt the response was pretty negative, as evidenced by DICE recently canning the sequel. It's a shame

KirstySays
KirstySays

 @PaulIzod  @alextweedehands Word is, as of yesterday, that Mirrors Edge 2 is in production *yay* but this could be a case of rumours flying around etc. 

 

The article was an interesting read and something I've been thinking about recently ever since completing ACIII. Now the AC series I love, adore, will go out and buy all the other merch that goes along with it no problem. As with any AC fan, I went along to a midnight launch, got the game and played it when I could play it inbetween uni and other things. To me, the ending left me feeling disappointed and the game itself was a bit of a disappointment in terms of it took them three years to build this and there was still a lot of bugs. It seems to me that now, even Ubi are doing this with AC. Maybe just me feeling like that but I can't help think they're just thinking about the money. 

Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3
Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

 @KirstySays  @PaulIzod  @alextweedehands  Actually, my theory is that since AC3 was in development from late 2009 or early 2010, I think that Ubisoft just didn't want their fans waiting that long and possibly forgetting about the series so instead of a long 3 year wait for AC3, they made Brotherhood and Revelations in between so that fans wouldn't lose interest. I honestly don't think they did it for the money- the series had just started in 2007 so I guess they didn't want to risk it so they did what they had to. I don't blame them though. This economy and the video game industry itself is a lot tougher than it was in the 90's or 80's supposedly or a little earlier than that. They did whatever they had to, unintentionally wanting to churn out the series, though since they've been doing that they might as well continue since its fans have gotten used to it; being that if for one year they didn't release a game they would probably lose a ton of money and fan interest so they sorta got themselves into this and for now they can't get out-especially since Alex Hutchinson, the director at Ubisoft Montreal, which does the Assassin's Creed games, said they would continue the annual releases. I would say that as long as they input the amount of quality and care that went into AC3 they're off to a good start from this point forward. But that's just my opinion. Everyone let me know what you think about that. 

KirstySays
KirstySays

 @PaulIzod  @alextweedehands  @KirstySays Yeah the series definately has bee going downhill but I always put that down to the fact that they were just trying to stretch out the Ezio story, hence the reason I was so excited for AC3 but it's been a bit of a disappointment. Don't get me wrong, the gameplay that I've grown to love is still there but just feel like it's not fitting right in my heart :( Sad times.

PaulIzod
PaulIzod

@alextweedehands @KirstySays I'm not a massive fan of multiplayer so an game that claims that as its saving grace isn't going to get much sympathy from me ;)

alextweedehands
alextweedehands

 @PaulIzod  @KirstySays  @alextweedehands Yeah, it's a shame how much the AC series has gone downhill, it's such a cash cow nowadays.  I think the only saving grace is the multiplayer and even then, I don't think its as good as Brotherhood's.  

PaulIzod
PaulIzod

@KirstySays @alextweedehands it must be pretty bad if even a die hard obsessive like yourself is being put off

PaulIzod
PaulIzod

@KirstySays @alextweedehands to be honest, my experience of the AC creed was that they were always focused on milking the money cow. After the 1st game, they've extended the series as far as they can, changing minimal aspects between games and cashing it in. Part of why I found it hard to care about the series. The first game was great, but by middle of 2nd I was suffering burnout from monotony of the same basic mechanic repeated ad nauseum. The best part is the assassinations and they're getting few and far between. Maybe 3 changes all that, but now it seem to be descending into farce with the visits to US founding fathers etc

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