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We Need to Get Over Innovation
by Tom Battey on 01/29/14 01:41:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I have now finished Broken Age Act 1. Don't worry, I won't spoil it for you, except to say that the 'ending' is pretty great, and that if you have even a passing interest in adventure games you should definitely consider playing it.

It would seem that most of the gaming press agrees with me. With one caveat. From Edge: '...feeling its way to a comfortable mid-point between the desires of adventure-game fans and its own motivation to move the genre forward – even if only by a small increment.'

From Eurogamer: '...fans will be forgiven for expecting something a little more chewy, a little more experimental, from a developer who made his name by turning adventure games upside down.'

From Gameplanet: 'But it’s over all too quickly, without enough challenges to satisfy, or enough innovations to drive the genre forward.'

Emphasis mine. Concerns about length and difficulty aside, people's primary gripe with Broken Age seems to be that is isn't progressive enough. Which seems to me to be a strange criticism to level at a game that was conceived as a love letter to the classic point-and-click adventure genre, that made millions on a promise that it quite specifically wasn't going to be progressive.

Innovation - Antharion
Antharion - just one of many games pitched as 'old school' which has sailed past its funding goal.

There's a vein of criticism at the moment that suggests that Kickstarter has become a platform for little more than gaming nostalgia trips. That developers can greatly increase their chance of reaching funding by promising a return to some sort of 'golden age', by resurrecting a 'dead' genre, by featuring some lovely 16-bit pixel art or nostalgia-stirring chip-tune music.

This article at Rock Paper Shotgun sums up the situation rather well. While I agree with the author's view of Kickstarter development right now - I myself am guilty of chucking a fair bit of money at projects that lead with the term 'old school' - I don't necessarily agree that this is somehow a bad thing, a 'peril' for the games industry.

Firstly, the fact that these projects garner so much funding so quickly implies there's a hungry audience for these non-progressive games, so from a purely business point of view, who are we to argue that these projects are somehow of less value simple because they aren't innovative?

Secondly, I take issue with the idea of innovation, or at least the idea that innovation is inherently good and something that all games developers should aspire to. Innovation is a lovely buzzword, one that over time has been rather muddied in meaning and come to represent some ideal of progression that the entire games medium ought to be striving towards.

Now don't get me wrong, innovation is great. Innovation is something that any artistic medium requires to remain culturally valid. However, not every piece of work within a medium can be innovative, nor should it be. Progressiveness is not the be-all-and-end-all of an art form.

The Monkey Island HD re-release certainly isn't innovative, but few would argue that it isn't still damn good fun.
The Monkey Island HD re-release certainly isn't innovative, but few would argue that it isn't still damn good fun.

If every novel was a work of progressive fiction, then people sitting poolside at holiday resorts would look really upset. And Dan Brown would be broke. If every movie was tying to break new cinematic ground, cinemas would be pretty sparsely populated around summer time. And Michael Bay would be unemployed. Hey, it's swings and roundabouts, stick with me here.

My argument is that there is plenty of room for games, hell, for entire genres, that exist without innovating at all. That innovation for innovation's sake is unnecessary. That 'new' does not always have to mean different, or even really all that new at all.

The games industry has always been obsessed with progression. I think that's a technology thing - games are tied to the technology that runs them, and technology is a rampantly progressive industry. As technology gets more powerful, the scope for bigger, deeper, more innovative games increases.

Genres get left behind. The text adventure died because, hell, who wants to read a load of boring old words when we can render graphics now? Then the graphical adventure was vanquished by the big tech push into 3D - who needs pixel art backgrounds when we can manipulate polygons? For decades, 'newness' has been synonymous with 'greatness'.

Innovation - text adventure
The text adventure is  a supposedly 'dead' genre that is still thriving today.

But just because technology allows us to create exciting new avenues for games, does that render the genres that came before irrelevant? Because we can render full-colour graphics, does that mean we've said everything it's possible to say through the medium of the text adventure? The burgeoning community building up around Twine adventure games would suggest not.

Clearly people still want to play games that exist in the same form they did in the past - they're not Kickstarting these things out of sheer ignorance, I assure you. Why should we resent them for doing so?

We're finally at a point where technology exists across a broad enough spectrum, and is so widely available, that you no longer need the most cutting-edge equipment to play games. And it follows that the games people are playing now don't have to be defined by the cutting edge of innovation either.

What I love about the current state of gaming is that we can be wildly innovative, we can experiment with wearable technology games and actual virtual reality, then we can turn around and pick up a point-and-click adventure game that plays like it was made in 1992. If all of these experiences are enjoyable, why should one be considered less worthwhile on the grounds of not being progressive enough?

Cthulu Saves The World. Not innovative. Still great.
Cthulu Saves The World. Not innovative. Still great.

Innovation is great. Innovation is important. I love playing innovative games that break new ground. That's half the reason I play games, after all; to see what new and exciting places they can take me next. But I also play games to relax, to have fun, to enjoy a story, and innovation is completely irrelevant to those particular experiences.

Innovation is not the sole reason for games to exist. It is possible for a game to be great without being innovative. 'Greatness' and 'newness' are not synonymous. In short, we need to get over innovation, and start enjoying games for what they bring to table in their own right.

Tom Battey is an author and person who sometimes writes about videogames. He writes at tombattey.com and does the Twitter thing @tombattey.


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Comments


Daniel Cook
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Your point about innovation not being all there that is valuable is of course spot on. However, the calls you hear for innovation come from a very specific advocacy stance. To dismiss them as some strange techno-progressiveness culture is to miss a very large aspect of game development.

The majority of games through the history of computer games have been close copies of sporadic innovators with minor, minor tweaks. There is obviously a market for 'more of the same' since that is the best way to describe most products on sale. What you are asking for is the current reality; oppressively so.

This gets old for some. So they advocate for change.

Another quirk of your argument is to assume innovation is locked to technology. That is one narrative, but surely there are many types of innovation? What is Twine's innovation? It works on a new cheap platform and is easy to author a familiar form within. The first is a technology innovation, but the second a creation pipeline innovation that radically reduces barrier to entry.

Perhaps a better argument is to ask for greatness and treat innovation (in mechanics, art, story, tools, craft, etc) as a means to get there.

Unless you really do want more Dan Brown. The majority of developers have you covered.

All the best,
Danc.

Tom Battey
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Always appreciate your replies Dan - you always manage to raise points I haven't thought of.

You are right of course that there are many types of innovation within games, and I've focused only on technological innovation, because this is how I interpreted the reviews in question. They seem to suggest, to me at least, that the fact that Broken Age is not breaking new ground mechanically - not 'moving the genre forward' - is a cause for criticism, which seems to be a call for a specifically technological/mechanical innovation.

Certainly platforms like Twine and Versu offer innovation in an entirely different field, but it's an innovation in how we express ideas within a format, which I don't think anyone was criticising Broken Age for lacking.

You are also right that cloning culture has had a massive hand in this lionising of innovation, and I don't mean to suggest that I approve of this practice or that I desperately yearn for more identical modern war shooters.

However, I think there is an ideological difference between a project that is devised to cynically copy a market leader for profit a one that is designed to tap into a vein of nostalgia for a genre that has perhaps been underserved in recent years. Criticising the first for lack of innovation is entirely justified, even necessary, but criticising the second for the same issue just seems sort of mean.

It's the fact that this was a criticism levelled specifically at Broken Age that led me to wonder if perhaps our obsession with innovation isn't a little too all-encompassing.

Kenneth Blaney
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A major issue in the discussion is that, all too often in game criticism, "innovative" is used to describe an indie game in the same way that "fun" is used to describe a AAA game. That is, it is a slightly more specific sounding way of saying that the game is "good". I bring this up as an issue because in describing 'Broken Age' as "not having enough innovation" what they really might be saying is that the game didn't live entirely up to their expectations (too high of expectations being an entirely different discussion).

Another, albeit more minor issue, is deciding the threshold for what qualifies as an innovation and whether or not someone "did it first". Is the health restoring in 'Cthulhu' after every battle enough of a change from the usual RPG mechanics to count as an "innovation"? What about a text adventure with speech-to-text recognition and a good parser? This leads to all sorts of conversations that always remind me of the old high-school-party-after-a-few-too-many fight starter: "Well... cheerleading isn't actually a sport!"

Tom Battey
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You are right - 'innovative' has become synonymous with 'good' in a lot of gaming circles. People seem to miss the point that a game can be very innovative and still be a bad game, or that a game can lack innovation of any sort and still be very good.

It's probably worth bringing up that an already good game would not necessarily be better if it were more innovative.

I'd have no problem with people criticising Broken Age for not living up to expectations - whether it's to do with length, price, difficulty, or whatever. However, simply saying 'it's not innovative enough' without clarifying why you felt it wasn't innovative enough, by simply using the now-blanket-term 'innovation' as a nebulous standing for overall quality, you are doing the game a disservice. And also missing the point of innovation.

Brian McCarty
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I think it boils down to a couple different types of gamers. There is the type that has been around since the start, that enjoys a game for good gameplay. This type has been around the longest because before all of the fancy graphics we have now, all there was that could make a game good is good gameplay.

And now that games have become more accessible and mainstream, a new type of gamer has emerged that never experienced the era where a game being good was strictly based on good gameplay. That could be due to age, cost, or lack of interest at the time. In any case, take a look at the ads being targeted at them. They almost never advertise gameplay, just a fancy display of (often pre-rendered) cut scenes. The AAA battle for these gamers is mostly based on visual appeal. For the most part, it's all they know. So it makes sense that from a consumer perspective, this group of gamers would link tech innovation to graphical improvements and ultimately the value of the game.

Personally, I agree that innovation for innovation's sake is not a necessarily a good thing. Additionally, the reason I go back and play classics like Baldur's Gate or Fallout 2 is not for nostalgia. It's not because I like low res graphics. It is because you just can't find games with that level of quality all that often. And, even less as time goes on. Specifically, I mean the quality of the game design itself. Not the technology. Not the graphics.

Tom Battey
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I don't entirely agree that older games were always necessarily focused 'entirely on gameplay'; you certainly still had your spectacle games in the 16-bit era, it's just that you'd be hard pressed to identify all that Mode 7 scaling as 'spectacle' by today's standards.

However you're right a lot of people do correlate technological power with overall game quality, and also with innovation. It brings up an interesting debate that seems to occur around the advent of every console generation - we hear a lot of people, within the industry and without, getting excited about gameplay 'innovations' the increased horsepower of the new consoles will bring about.

What we've seen over recent years, or how I've seen it at least, is that the opposite is often true. Increased technological power requires more and more resources to be used for tasks that used to be much simpler, which makes it much more cost- and labour-intensive to create even simple gameplay routines. Rather than more innovative games, more powerful technology has brought us safer, simpler, smaller games.

This could of course be alleviated by technological innovation on the developer tools side of the industry. It'll be interesting to watch over the next few years how exactly the baseline standard for games - and what we consider 'innovation' - changes.

Brian McCarty
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Good point, older games weren't 100% focused on gameplay. Though, compared to live action movies/tv or cartoons, the graphics did not even come close to compare. I think the draw was mostly around the gameplay itself and some new graphics was like the icing on the cake. The gameplay is what made the game really good and is what made it a classic that is still played today even though the graphics are very outdated.

Now, games definitely can compete with any other media visually. so drawing in players can be done without having much gameplay at all. Gamers were always going to game. But now, the audience has expanded to those who may not have bothered until their eye was caught by some fancy explosions, photorealistic characters, or barely covered digital breasts. The focus on gameplay may not have been 100% before, but I believe it is becoming less and less as the industry focuses more and more on visual appeal and less on engaging gameplay design + great stories.

And indeed, I'd love to see more innovation to ease building games. I do believe that has been happening and is still happening. There are some great tools out there that can be purchased by even a solo dev.

Joshua McDonald
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I want to emphasize one of Brian's points and add a little. When I go back to old games to satisfy nostalgia, that usually lasts about five minutes. At that point, either I will keep playing the game because it's truly great, even compared to today's games (ex: Fallout 2, many of the old Zeldas), or I will quit because the game may have been good for its time but has been completely outclassed by what has come after (ex: Warcraft 1).

I believe that what pulls people back to classic games and old-school games is that some of the good things those games do gets completely abandoned. There are lots of people who like RPGs that have absolutely no gating and no "level with you" enemies, where if you can figure out a way to kill the super dragon at level five, you can actually use the loot that is made for level 50 characters.

There are people who prefer the dodgeable projectiles from old FPS's like Doom. There are people who would rather have the quick fights of Final Fantasy 3/6 than the long camera-panning "let's show off our cool graphics" fights that you see later in the series.

There are people who would rather have text than cutscenes. And there are people whose opinion on game story is "any story is good, as long as it doesn't get in the way of good gameplay"

The gaming industry has a habit of leaving behind great things when they go out of fashion, and I really like the fact that there are some developers who are able to identify these traits and bring them back.

Brian McCarty
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This is right on. It's more about bringing back the good design elements that have been lost in time than nostalgia.

Tom Battey
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This! This is the point I was circling around when I wrote 'because we can render full-colour graphics, does that mean we've said everything it's possible to say through the medium of the text adventure?' ... but you guys have expressed it much more completely.

There are, I think, points in the past where certain genres reached a sort of plateau, a perfect balance of design and tech. Obviously this idea of a 'perfect balance' is subjective, but the examples you give are good ones.

No one can argue that FFVI is a far more complex game than, say, FFXIII in every respect other than visuals. Now you can argue which of those two games is 'better', and that's down to your own preferences, but the tech push has made it impossible to create another game as complex as FFVI as a 'AAA' experience.

It reminds me of the FFVII HD 'debate' that's always raging somewhere online. A lot of FFVII fans look at Square Enix' recent output and wonder why they simply don't just remake FFVII in HD like they teased in that infamous PS3 trailer. Everyone would buy that, right?

The reason SE don't remake FFVII is that it would be almost impossible to recreate a game as broad and complex as FFVII with modern-day HD assets. The time and money involved in doing that would be astronomical.

There's a reason FFXIII favoured spectacle over depth, and it has everything to do with budgetary constraints and nothing to do with actual game design decisions. It's the same reason Fallout 3 was a much simpler, yet much more graphically stimulating, game than Fallout 2.

There are certain types of games - RPGs, both Japanese and Western, are perfect examples - that basically can't be made with modern cutting-edge tech, so these genres have effectively been dumped and declared 'dead'.

Which sucks, because I think there are still opportunities to make great games within the confines of these genres. It's one reason RPGMaker is so popular, I'd wager, and why games like Cthulu and Broken Age are as successful as they are. People want to see new stories told within old genres.

Which is why it irked me that critics took a look at a game that deliberately set out to inhabit an old genre and then criticised for not being new enough. That was never the point.

To me, the JRPGs of the PS1-era were the perfect expression of that particular genre. The audiovisual elements were advanced enough to express actual emotion, but not so advanced as to hobble design and scope. I feel we got the best JRPG games during this tech generation.

Now I'm aware that this is my personal opinion, but I'm also aware that it's an opinion that many people share. And if there's an audience for these types of games, why should studios not set out to serve this audience? And why should their products be criticised for not being 'innovative', when that was never the point in the first place?

Michael Stevens
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Part of why Innovation is a review buzzword is because of how frequently games (and especially the more firmly-genred games) try to lengthen themselves and wear out the novelty of their core loop by applying it to trivial content. In a review it's important to note that maybe the player has done 200 hours of something similar so their engagement will need to come instead from plot, environment, meta game, etc. You're right that there will always be a utility for things that don't innovate (generic match three puzzle games, crosswords, tower defense, basic platformers), but the audience for those things is probably not engaged enough to seek out the consumer reviews you're pulling quotes from.

Also, anyone who played the games Cthulhu parodies first hand can tell you how very current and refreshing CStW is. It's a parody, so it needs the symbols of earlier games to function, but it's gotten it's reputation by outthinking more expensive designs.

Tom Battey
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Oh man, don't get me started on padding. I've just had to set aside Tales of Xillia, a game I was really enjoying, because of the horrific amount of padding. I really like the game, but I became acutely aware that it was wasting my time. I simply didn't like it enough to forgive it another 20 hours of monster corridors.

And you're right that the Cthulu games feel refreshing by deliberately lampooning exactly this sort of crap design. It brings up an interesting question about innovation - is a game innovative if it simply takes the tropes of a genre and gets rid of the bits that are outdated or otherwise suck? Like, would Tales of Xillia be considered an innovative RPG if it were functionally identical but DIDN'T feature a ton of repeating environment full of the same four or five battles?

Theresa Catalano
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It's amazing how hypocritical the gaming press can be at times. You hear a lot of calls for innovation, but when something truly innovative comes out like Wonderful 101, it gets sadly ignored. Meanwhile completely derivative crap like Tomb Raider which doesn't have an innovative bone in it's body gets praised. Often it feels like calls for innovation are merely lip service... or maybe it's just something to type in a review when you actually have nothing real to say.

Tom Battey
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Now I have issues with the Wonderful 101, and those issues make me sad, because I really wanted to love the game. Those issues, however, have nothing to do with innovation - I thought the few innovative elements it had worked perfectly well (once you stopped trying to use the touch screen to achieve anything meaningful), and that it was the game design 101 (not even a joke on purpose) elements of the game that sometimes simply didn't work. Which is a shame, but I don't want to get into that.

I also have issues with Tomb Raider. It's not that I think it's a bad game - it's completely fine. But it's only that. Completely fine. The story is sort of uninspiring but reasonably well told. The gameplay is really solid and functional but its core loops get repeated way too many times over the length of the game. It all looks really nice.

It does perfectly decent job of rebooting Tomb Raider in a AAA Uncharted mould. I played the whole thing and liked it well enough. And I'm not sure it really would have benefitted from being 'more innovative' - that wasn't what it was setting out to do. It WOULD have benefitted from better pacing, more balanced gameplay weighting and a few hours slashed from its run time, but none of those things are particularly innovative concepts.

Theresa Catalano
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We'll have to agree to disagree about Wonderful 101 I guess, I thought it was the best game of last year.

It's true that "innovation" is not exactly what Tomb Raider needed. What it needed I think was to not just be a copy of Uncharted, but rather to offer something that stands out in the gaming scene. People get tired of playing the same thing over and over. It's not exactly an "innovation" issue, but people get tired of the same cookie cutter games, and Tomb Raider was very much a cookie cutter game.

It's ironic actually... if the new Tomb Raider had played more like the older games, it would have really stood out in the modern gaming scene simply because games like that aren't being made anymore. That wouldn't really be "innovative," some people might even call it going backwards, but in the end it would offer up something different and less cookie cutter.

Maybe the problem is that when many people say the word "innovative", what they really just mean is different. And I don't think you can blame people for not wanting to play the same game over and over again.

Tom Battey
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It's an interesting question - what exactly do we mean when we say a game is 'innovative'? Do we simply mean that it's different to the norm, or do we mean it literally, in that a game has to breaking new ground and presenting things we've never seen before?

This is a part of my argument - the use of the word 'innovation' has become so muddied when it comes to games that it doesn't really have any meaning any more, other than shorthand for 'something that is good/interesting.'

Theresa Catalano
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Well, my point was just that games that are actually innovative tend to be ignored, whereas games that get the best reviews are often not innovative at all. But I think I'm pretty much agreeing with you. "Innovation" is something that a lot of game journalists are taught to pay lip service too, but they tend to use the word lazily, or just plain misuse it. And I think you've done a good job of pointing out why it's an overrated concept.

There's no doubt, it's a way overused word. It's not quite as irritating to me as my biggest pet peeve word in gaming, "immersion," but I can see where you're coming from.

Tom Battey
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Oh, my argument isn't with you - you're spot on about reviews.

Watching Metacritic over the last few years, it seems there's a formula to making a AAA game that scores 80+, and it has very little to with innovation. It has a lot to do with executing familiar tropes with solid mechanics and a whole lot of polish.

Games that actually are innovative are never going to be as familiar or as mechanically solid, if only because by introducing genuinely new mechanics they give us no baseline to define what 'solid' is. As such they will always split opinion, and even if they execute well on all other fronts, are more likely to fall into the 60-70 metascore range as a result.

It actually seems that trying something new is a sure-fire way to deny yourself that crucial 80+ metascore.

I always think of Mirror's Edge when I think of this problem; that was a game that tried something genuinely new, and those innovative elements actually worked really, really well. But because it was unfamiliar, and because other elements of the game were fairly basic, it pretty much bombed.

Which is sad, because I'd have loved to see a generation of first-person games built with Mirror's Edge as a template, rather than Call of Duty.

Luis Blondet
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"There's a vein of criticism at the moment that suggests that Kickstarter has become a platform for little more than gaming nostalgia trips. That developers can greatly increase their chance of reaching funding by promising a return to some sort of 'golden age', by resurrecting a 'dead' genre, by featuring some lovely 16-bit pixel art or nostalgia-stirring chip-tune music."

Nothing wrong with that, at all.

Lewis Pulsipher
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Innovation is highly overrated. "Innovation" depends heavily on what you're used to, what you've seen before. Some people might have thought Stratego was innovative when it came out after WW II, but in fact it derives from and is almost identical to a game on the market in Britain since 1909 (L'Attaque). Yet even today, Stratego will be "innovative" to someone who has never encountered that kind of game before.

I discuss "Innovation in Game Design" in this blog post: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/edit/blog/item/90787/index.php

What many people really want from a game is not innovation but surprise. I think surprise can come from how you do things, what elements you put together, how you model something - from many things other than innovation.

Alex Covic
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Maybe I don't understand your tribe (game developers, of which I am none), but my understanding is/was, that "you people" like to solve interesting puzzles? You challenge yourselves, otherwise, you would be doing the same things over and over again, like assembly line factory workers?

There is nothing wrong with doing the same thing. It provides a steady income. We all - as consumers - depend on common goods to be available and maintain a certain quality. If I - as a consumer - am bored with one flavor of yoghurt, I can buy another one. But I still enjoy the fact, that both exist - the new and 'old' (or rather 'different').

When Tim Schafer makes a (new=duh!) Adventure game, then it is by the very definition an "innovation", in the true meaning of the Latin root of the word: innovatio = renewal. The 'new' is inherent in the 'old'. That's the whole point in making one (again)? Something all these supposedly English Major journo's seem to miss?

If I were a game developer, I would dismiss ANY "criticism" by the press. They are the typically jaded, niche audience, which made a living out of playing games and (sadly) not doing much of anything else, to enrich or inform their views? Their scope is narrow, their educational training rather limited? They rewrite their same old reviews, stuck in stereotypes and worn out phrases?

Valid criticism (good/bad) demands a certain expertise. Video games are a magnitude of different things - from the technical elements, to art and design. It would take an old person, with a lot of knowledge in many crafts, to say something meaningful? Or a fellow game developer, who has been there and done that.

So, when somebody in the press cries for "innovation" in half a sentence, because they played nothing but video games for the last 20 years, I would not care about them. I would rather like to know how somebody 10, 12, 16 years old, feels about their game experience.

In every art form (and video games combine many of them) there is a desire to "express" and "reflect" the contemporary "here and now"? The influences in our daily lives are reflected in our work. We want to express ourselves "better" in that sense. "Innovation" can also mean, to take a new look at a well-known concept and re-imagine it for today? The innovation is the "new", "fresh" pair of eyes, dealing with the same (old) problems?

The result can be new hardware (Oculus Rift), better code, ... or a new way to deal with well established genres.

In the end, it is all about "do I have something to say?" (or contribute), that gets us all going? Otherwise, there is no need to read a new book. Classic literature got you all covered.

Sam Stephens
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The problem is that what is innovative can be difficult to spot without a deep set of knowledge of what is being discussed. Innovations tend to be subtle and affect the experience in a way that requires a great understanding of the history and form of the product. It also depends on specifically what kind of innovations are being sought and where. For example, not everything we call games actually feature game design, and therefore do not innovate in terms of design.

Matthew Hagerty
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"The text adventure died because, hell, who wants to read a load of boring old words when we can render graphics now?"

I believe this was more of a rhetorical statement in your article (at least I hope so). It drives me crazy when I hear or read people making serious comments like that. Making such a comment would be the same as saying "Books are dead. Why would anyone want to read books when we have movies?" TV did not kill radio, movies did not kill books, pop music did not kill classic music. New games, technology, mechanics, innovations, etc. will not kill old ones or make old games any less fun than they are. It would seem that the majority of "gamers" out there are shallow, impatient, and incapable of reading.

I also think the term "old-school games" is not defined well enough to use it without elaboration. To me, the NES or 1st gen consoles are not old-school. Old-school is the time when video games were being invented in the arcades and on the home computers of the early 80's, also referred to as "The Golden Era".

Just about everything being done in video games today was invented back then, so I fail to see where modern games are doing much of anything different than before. Computer horsepower, storage density, and color depth are not "game innovations", they are hardware innovations.

The limited resources of the old-school computers meant that developers had to be more creative just to cram everything they wanted into the game, and they had to pay attention to, and worry about, making the game fun. All too often games (and movies) simply ride the wave of technology and focus on "ooh shiny!" to hide their shortcomings.

Books stand the test of time, not because they use fancy fonts, or are easier to produce, or because of a some "new" layout. They thrive because of what they contain, not because of the technology used to create or present their contents. Humans love stories. We love telling stories and hearing stories. Some of the best stories you will ever hear will be while sitting around a campfire out in the woods with 0.0 technology innovations around to augment the experience. Your imagination is the ultimate "game engine".

We are human, and no matter how advanced our technology gets it will not evolve us. There are certain basic elements that will always appeal to humans like, love, hate, curiosity, adventure, greed, passion, survival, the will to live, a sense of purpose, etc..

Game innovation is not more pixels, or more colors, or more shiny stuff. Game innovation is coming up with a way to capture some of those human elements and let us experience them in a meaningful, different, or fun way. Tim Schafer and the Double Fine people captured many of those elements in Broken Age.

Tom Battey
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Don't worry, that was me being flippant. I am entirely with you on this one. I write fiction, I read fiction, I play interactive fiction games...and I'm still getting my head around just how many possible ways there are to arrange words on a page/screen to tell a story. Like, infinity ways.

Which is what made me flippant in the first place. The tech-innovation crowd were all like 'wow, graphics, words are DONE,' as soon as technology allowed it, completely ignoring the fact that the text adventure as an art form still held, technically, infinite promise.

And I think the popularity of things like Twine prove us right. Hell, Twine writers/developers are putting out some genuinely innovative work, both in terms of games and in terms of storytelling in general, while the wider games market is for the most part still shouting about texture resolution.

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Karl E
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If you're trying to explain why people don't care for point- and click adventure games anymore, how about looking outside the gaming world. What's happened since the heyday of point- and click games? Oh yeah, the web. Today most people spend a large part of their lives in a point- and click adventure, except the characters are real people. It's not strange that they don't care for it in games.

It's kind of similar to the Wii U. Nintendo looked around and figured that people sure spend a lot of time looking at small screens nowadays. But just because people look at small screens a lot doesn't mean they want to do it even more when they are playing games. And guess what - another screen turned out to be the last thing they needed.

Benjamin Quintero
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"Innovation" is a word that means as little to me as "indie" does these days. The textbook definition no longer applies to it for most people who use it to resolving an argument... I stopped using that word about 8 years ago.

John Maurer
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Every time I hear that word my back cringes, most can't even accurately define it. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia: "Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs."

So, yes, doing something "new" is innovative, but so is catering to a "need". Anyone who has ever had a business class in college should have heard this before, "Find a need & fill it". Innovation entails contriving a solution, whether its entirely new, tried and true, or a mixture is irrelevant.

Please, get over the word, the more other people try to define it the more its true meaning gets buried in conjecture, which is another fancy word for an unproven thought or idea.

Cordero W
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In my opinion, there are some game designs that are perfect as they are, and simply require a different coating or dressing by a new developer. For instance, all the mods of various games over the years were made with these ideas in mind. But they always put some new twist on it to not make it seem more of the same. I liked the CTB system in FFX. It was turn based and yet gave a better way to plan out tactics, something you can't do on an ATB system. I also like the system in FFX-2, a battle system that hasn't been revisited for a very long time. Those types of systems are defining, and I wouldn't mind using them for a new game.

So in terms of gameplay innovation, I can understand that. But if you have a new technological innovation, such as Nintendo's Gamepad or Xbox's Kinect, by all means, use it if you can. Hardware pushes innovation, too.

Tom Battey
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I think RPGs fall into this category a lot - FFX-2 doesn't necessarily have a 'better' combat system than FFX; it's just different. The old ATB systems don't somehow make for worse gameplay for being turn-based - they just prioritise skill and tactics differently.

The quest to 'innovate' the JRPG battle system has led to some fairly horrible fight systems. Some great ones too, of course, but lots of horrible ones. I mean, I just played the FFXIII-3 demo, and...well, give me a good ol' ATB system any day.

Eric Harris
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I like the article and Tom's perspective on innovation.


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