It’s a classic tale, really – man buys gift for son, gift turns out to be cute furry thing with three simple rules, son breaks rules and all hell breaks loose. If the 1984 film “Gremlins” taught us anything, it is that looks can be extremely deceiving. And none if that is more apparent than in Video Games. Throughout the history of console gaming, creators have tried to lure us in with the appearance of something that should be appealing and easily digestible (sometimes even familiar) but fails to keep the attraction because they decided to break some of the “rules”. Games have simple parameters that should be followed in order for the gamer to enjoy it. So why is it so hard for game companies to make a satisfying experience without compromising the actual game? Why do they always have to feed them after midnight?
Although there are many conclusions as to why this happens, one issue seems to stem from the continuation of preexisting properties or franchises. Companies continuously seem to think they have hit a plateau, regardless of what the gaming population thinks. Adding a Battle Royale mode for the sake of it or adding microtransactions that alter the gameplay are the equivalent of tossing Gizmo into a pool in broad daylight. Recent examples like Fallout 76 and Star Wars Battlefront II go to show you that sometimes you can’t always depend on the name to sell your product. Unfortunately these games took something very appealing and messed it up somehow where there is nothing but bad reviews and a salty taste in the wake of their release. Yes they still both have a following but for how long? As we’ve all seen in the movie, the gremlins NEVER turn back into the cute furry things. The damage is already done.
The fear of creating disgustingly bad video game equivalents of potentially great games was not always a concern. Past games have even broken that mold. And there is no better example than the blue bomber himself, Mega Man. Capcom’s side scroller is a great example of how the “Gizmo” effect started to ripple into games. Once you turn on Mega Man you see bright colors, a simple man in blue (or yellow and blue if looking at the original box art, but please don’t), and a list of other robots to fight. That’s it. Now I know the technical limitations also made it what it appears to be today but that is besides the point. But on top of that the game just could have been bad. Also I am not taking into account Battle Network or the RPG “Legend” series as they are considered side series and they would make my argument into a spiderweb of contradictions and bad points. The creators had one intention and that was to make a fun experience. The rule of this game I suppose would be to follow the order or villains. If you don’t, it makes it so much harder and sometimes impossible to beat, but that’s it. And it was a success. And every game in the franchise since has been to known to have a sometimes overwhelming yet satisfying difficulty. They did not rewrite the book, they did not drastically change gameplay or compromise the integrity if what people loved. They just compounded it. Hell, they even made recent sequels that looked identical to the original games because they know that’s what people loved and they were loved themselves.
Gamers nowadays tend to get lumped into a category of people that confuse expectation with entitlement and I see that as a bit unfair given the effect I’ve previously stated. If someone gave me the gift of a mongwai and told me it’s a great pet as long as i follow these rules, I wouldn’t feel entitled. The expectation is for me NOT to mess things up. Make games that are fun to play and everything else should write itself. If it ain’t broke, right? And if the game is a success, don’t be surprised if the sequels go the “Gremlins 2” route. And if that is the case, you better be prepared for a shakeup because all bets are off.