The Developer’s Dilemma

Recently American entertainment seems to be taking on this weird pattern. For every good, story driven movie, there are two to three story-less, action-packed films. What is even more interesting is people will choose these dumbed down “Splosion!” filled movies over their more intellectual peers. This got me to thinking; how many people will spend money on something just because it looks good, even if the story is subpar? How many people don’t care about learning something and just want to be pleased?

How many people play games for entertainments sake alone? Very few people play the Call of Duty’s because they have rich stories or plotlines; they play them because they are fun. They value the mindless killing or competition of multiplayer over a good quality story.

It is this mindset that allows the uninformed to make stereotypes about us as gamers. A writer for the New York Times recently said that the “core of gamers [are] explosion-addled young men in their basements”. The sad thing is, he is partially right. Sure those people may not be the majority but the industry is buoyed by action and competitive FPS titles. The Call of Duty franchise is still alive today because each installment of the CoD series sells millions of copies, and nobody buys them for their story.

The fact that those titles are bought for the multiplayer doesn’t bother me. I am upset that they give us such a lackluster campaign. It can be argued that just as much if not more work goes into making the campaign than goes into crafting multiplayer. Voice actors, motion capture, screenplays, and a mature (enough) story are all parts of a complex process. And I hope it’s obvious to everyone that titles like the Call of Duties and Battlefields are multiplayer focused. So why do they put in the work of creating a campaign at all. It doesn’t generate sales and it’s not fueling their sequels. My plea to the developers: “Use all of those resources to develop your multiplayer.”

I am a diehard campaign player and for me if a game’s focus is its story then that needs to be where their effort is visible. My list of personal favorites includes titles like Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed; games that are fun to play and have multiplayer, but primarily focus on delivering a solid story. The multiplayer is secondary and in most cases ends up being secondary in my mind when I play.

Now I’m not saying I don’t like multiplayer focused games, just don’t push a half-assed campaign at me. Videogames started as coin slurping, high-score driven arcade cabinets with no stories at all and to this day there are companies that rely on the joy of competition for sales. I think we have evolved enough as players to recognize that these titles, much like the annual sports releases, don’t need stories. So why try?

If you want to tell us a story, a real, serious (or funny) story that you truly want people to hear, then please put the utmost effort into it. If you want to make a product that focuses on online interaction and competition, then put all of your time into that. I think that we as consumers deserve to get exactly what we paid for and if that means more games become single or multiplayer specific then so be it. PC has been doing it for years and you don’t see any complaints coming from them.