We Need to Raise the Bar for Game Developers

We Need to Raise the Bar for Game Developers

High standards will help the industry

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Opinions on

I want to consistently play fresh and engaging experiences so allow me to discuss how both indie and AAA developers can keep things exciting in such a highly oversaturated market.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey screenshot
Whether by sea or by land, why do so many AAA games feel the same?

Indie games

There are some truly amazing indie games out there but for every stand-out title, there are countless uninspired games that merely crowd already overpopulated digital stores. If you're old enough to remember the early days of Xbox Live Arcade like I am then you can recall a time when browsing the latest indie titles was exciting as almost every game seemed promising in one way or another. Now, flipping through pages and pages of indies only to find 2 or 3 that seem even remotely intriguing feels more like a chore than a joy. Don't get me wrong; I love indie games and if you've been here before, you're probably well aware of that fact. I'm just saying that I want to see more indie developers create games that stand out instead of reusing the same tired formulas again and again.

One thing that I feel makes many indie devs complacent is the gaming community's general unyielding support and enthusiasm for them. It's almost as if game creators are infallible but they're far from it. In fact, criticism is the main tool that developers can use to make better games. Therefore, when I score a game poorly while giving it constructive criticism and a developer reacts harshly, it makes me shake my head. How are you supposed to evolve as a developer if you feel like everything you create is perfect and beyond criticism? Why are so many gamers defending this sort of counterproductive behaviour? Also, whenever I watch a streamer play some subpar indie while acting like it's the greatest thing they've ever played, a small part of my brain explodes. Similarly, when I see an indie that's merely a clone of a retro game yet it doesn't even live up to it get a 9 out of 10, I can't help but wonder what the reviewer was thinking.

I could go on all day but I'll wrap this part up with some constructive advice. If you're a gamer, it's best not to be afraid to give feedback if something about a game could be improved. Meanwhile, try to resist the urge to vehemently defend indie devs because if you truly love them then you'll want to see them learn and grow only to create better and better games, right? Finally, if you're an indie dev, I know it's hard to make a game and I understand that you put a lot of effort into your creations but you'd be silly to think that everything you'll create will be perfect. Therefore, listen to feedback and strive to create memorable experiences with unique gameplay, distinct audio and visual styles, unforgettable stories and characters, and don't ever settle on just being good enough.

Hollow Knight screenshot
Not every indie can be as fantastic as Hollow Knight

AAA games

To be honest, I don't really play many AAA games but whenever I do, I'm always amazed at how homogenized big budget titles have become over the years. I remember a time when no matter which big game you bought next, you were likely in for a unique adventure. Now, whether you're playing Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed, God of War, or whatever; there are always many elements that are very familiar almost immediately after beginning the campaign. In fact, I can't remember the last AAA game that I had to actually learn how to play. In other words, they all feature such similar gameplay that playing these sorts of games has become instinctual as opposed to something that the gamer needs to learn and adapt to; that's why I mostly stick to niche and indie games.

So, what can big name developers do? Well, they probably don't need to do anything because they'll sell millions of copies of their latest project whether it's the same old crap or something new and exciting so why would they give a hoot? I for one try and review AAA games with a critical perspective while keeping originality as well as quality in mind. Once, someone was furious with me and stated that the developer's bonus depended on their Metacritic average. Well, I couldn't care less. Why should a developer who didn't go the extra mile to make something outstanding get a bonus? Wipe your tears away, pick yourself up by the bootstraps, and make something better next time. I know that sounds harsh but do we really want to live in a society where mediocrity reigns supreme or would it be better to show some tough love from time to time so developers can be motivated to create the next timeless masterpiece?

Red Dead Redemption 2 screenshot
Red Dead Redemption 2's realistic world doesn't really excite me as a gamer

I don't usually write articles like this but I really wanted to get this off my chest. As someone who's constantly striving to do better, it makes me frustrated to see so many poor excuses being made and unwarranted praise being handed out so regularly in the gaming industry. Also, when so many games feel unoriginal or stagnant, it concerns me for the future of the medium. Anyway, what are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think that we need to raise the bar for game developers?

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