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Two Trends From This Generation I'd Like To See Continue... (And One That Needs To Die Already!)

Two generations ago full motion video and analog controls were all gamers could talk about.  Last time around we got open worlds and multi-player to obsess over.  With the WiiU around the corner and the other big two inevitable I became curious about what we'll be saying 3-4 years down the line about this current generation and the mark it left on gaming.  Without a doubt this console generation has brought some major changes to the gaming world.  I could talk about the high-def revolution, the thriving Indie scene, the free-to-play push, the growing professional gaming circuit, or, ugh, motion-controls for hours with ease.  All of these are BIG innovations, but not what I have in mind as the main contributors to the quality of the games we play.

The biggest trend that will define the current generation is what I'm calling the 'genre blender'.  Think about it.  How many games did you play this generation that defied (or at least made difficult) genre description.  Was it an RPG?  An FPS?  An Action/adventure title?  It seems like more and more game developers are realizing 'why make one type of game when we can put elements of two or more genres in this one'?  Rockstar started this trend last generation with the Grand Theft Auto series, but it exploded with the release of the 360 and PS3.  I don't know about anyone else, but I stopped buying most racing games as I have one already, GTA4.  With Bethesda's recent work on the Fallout series I may stop buying FPS's soon as well.  While admittedly not super-tight in the control area, the Fallouts and Skyrims of the world are making it more and more difficult to typecast a game as a certain genre.

Borderlands is another excellent example.  FPS gameplay? Check.  Cool art style to draw in purchasers? Check.  RPG-like skill trees? Check.  Scads of upgradable and collectable weapons?  Check.  Compelling story?  We can't win 'em all folks!  Seriously though, this game is the mash up to end all mash ups.  If it had a conversation system, tower defense mini-game, and pets we could just stop playing other games all together...

Speaking of conversation systems, we come to my second favorite trend in gaming.  So many games this generation have turned into digital 'Choose Your Own Adventure' novels (which I loved as a child).  Mass Effect, Fallout 3 and New Vegas, L.A. Noire, Dragon Age, and Heavy Rain are just a few examples of how the art of conversation is being turned into game-play. 

Heavy Rain especially moved me with its use of conversation as a game changing mechanic.  I played it though four different times to see the various outcomes available and it was about as well done as games get.  One of my all-time favorites, I hope this game stays on people's radars for years to come as the one that revolutionized how good adventure/drama games can be.

What good would discussing my favorite trends be without giving at least one nod to a stinker?

Betcha all expected COD right?  We'll get there, but Assassins Creed has fallen into the same trap as the series that used to be about World War II...

The yearly iteration...

I'm sure in an office somewhere, the idea off adding 40% to your staff and nearly doubling sales by pushing a yearly release date is making some executive's day.  It's nearly ruined my love of certain series though.  Assassins Creed was revolutionary and awesome.  The sequel was even better, adding complexity to the plot and smoothing out the game-play wrinkles.  Since then we've gotten crap.  The story keeps getting more convoluted, the game-play is borderline stale, and the sequels look more like DLC as there haven't been any significant presentation upgrades.

COD has a very similar problem.  And yes, we all know Activision uses two dev teams on an alternating two year cycle.  It hasn't helped.  Put 20% of each team on something new and awesome, combine the other two groups, give them a 3 year development cycle, and freaking WOW me with the next installment!  Otherwise I may stop playing the series all together...

It's been a good generation to be a gamer.  Sweet new IPs, some of the best titles in long-running series, and a few great new trends have made it one to remember for sure.  With no major announcements at this years E3 regarding hardware it looks like we've got a bit of waiting to do before starting the discussion of what next generation will bring, but that's OK, I like this one for now...

 

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