It’s almost that time of the year again. A time of year that is equal parts exciting and disappointing. A time of year when triple A publishers release their yearly onslaught of sequels that seemingly dominate the holiday sales. A time when you would be hard pressed to find anything differing from the carefully orchestrated destruction set pieces of your Call of Duty’s and Battlefields or your eagle screeching high dive assassin acrobatics. There is nothing inherently wrong with this games, they are good at what they do even if it isn’t drastically different from what they did the year prior. Games like this are usually hammered for their lack of ingenuity and stale gameplay yet sell well enough to keep the cycle going. This generally means that if you have a smaller game coming out, a different game coming out, an artsy game coming out around this time you will probably get buried.
One of the longest awaited, long in development game in recent memory, Sonys upcoming The Last Guardian has been pushed back to December. This comes as a bit of a shock given that the once for PS2 game finally got an October release date at the most recent E3 and some think that releasing in December is often a death sentence for games. For those that don’t know, The Last Guardian is the third game from developer Team Ico, who changed the concept of what games could be in terms of story and mechanics back on the PS2 with Ico and the more successful Shadows of the Colossus. Anyone who has played those games can vouch for the emotional, thought provoking gameplay conveyed without a single word of dialog. Fewer gaming moments stuck with me more than a horned little boy grabbing a princess hand or scaling a thundering giant. They stay with me because they are unique, unforgettable experiences given to me by a team of people not afraid to try something new.
I say all this because I don’t want this game to fail. I don’t want developers thinking they can do the bare minimum and think that is okay. I don’t want the market to be nothing but copies of copies. I believe in individuality and creativity and voting with your wallet. There has been a glorious swing towards small developers creating wonderful unique experiences that have not only done well by critics and fans but sold well enough to make other publishers take note looking for other small developers with unique ideas trying to break into the market. Like everything though there are good indie, unique games and bad. Choice often leads to competition and competition often leads to better products. To get to that point we as consumers have to show we are willing to take risks on the unknown and forking over money for something that isn’t a “by the numbers” game. That is why this holiday season, I won’t be paying $60 for the next iteration of shoot shoot, dramatic death, shoot shoot, rock music credits. I won’t be paying $60 for the next inaccurate war simulator one. I will be spending $60 on a game that has been in development longer than most people’s marriages. It could be a complete failure or it could be another example for games as art, but I will be happy either way knowing I’m not part of the sequel cycle. So who is with me?