Take a moment, if you will, and think about your personal history with video games. Remember in Resident Evil, when those dogs jumped out of the window and scarred you for life? Go back to the heyday of Sonic and remember how great some low quality rendition of people singing "SEGA" made you feel. Most importantly, think about the first time you booted up Halo and those chants echoed through your room and chills went up your spine. These nostalgic moments are great and important, yet they hide a darker truth that many of us, willingly or not, ignore. This darker truth is what I will explore, especially in how it pertains to Halo creators new IP, Destiny, and Nintendo's insistence to stick with franchises decades old.
Nostalgia is the ultimate double-edged sword. When we look back, we conveniently gloss over negative aspects of our favorite moments. I can recall many times talking with my football teammates from high school about this great game, that great hit, or those incredible touchdowns. However, what we don't mention are heartbreaking losses, tough injuries, or the fact that football is now but a distant dream. No, nostalgia comes at a cost. Talking about incredible touchdown runs or tackles are all well and good, but they don't tell the whole story.
This relates heavily to games because video game developers try to recapture the magic of past successes, especially when you have a commercial hit on your hands. Why not go back to that franchise, improve some things, and give the fans more of what they love? It seems like a win-win, doesn't it?
Sure, but it can only get you so far. People will remember the high points and take-your-breath away moments of your previous games, but a new game can't be built around that. It takes a toll not only on the consumer, who eventually will get tired of "destroying Halos", but on the developers as well. There comes a point when a developer needs to move on and create new memories and moments because they don't want to drive a beloved series into the ground. This was the position Bungie found themselves in a few years back when they decided it was time to pass the Halo torch to 343 Industries and start fresh with Destiny.
However, as great as this game sounds, it also bears a striking resemblance to Halo. Now, I understand that Halo sold somewhere over one gabillion copies, but Halo is Halo and this needs to be Destiny. From what they've shown, which isn't very much, it looks very much like it will be able to stand on its own. What about a few years down the road though? What if the same tried and true Halo/shooter-tropes that put Bungie on the map come into play again and there isn't enough compelling new content to keep this game going?
The Halo fever can only carry you so far. First-person shooters are one of the most over-saturated genres in the video game market and each iterative game that attempts to emulate Call of Duty or Halo makes it that much harder to get excited for a new one.
Bungie co-founder Jason Jones said it perfectly in a video announcing the PS4 version; they want to take the first person genre and "...turn it on its head again..." and that's exactly what they need to do. Learn from the successes of Halo but don't live in the past, always look forward and continue progressing. Know where you came from, but don't get too comfortable there. Make a compelling world, take cues from the past but don't replicate them, and most importantly, don't get content. Never stop innovating or pushing the envelope. Don't find yourself in the same situation Nintendo is in with the Wii U.
Nintendo is one of the biggest offenders of this "nostalgia crime", but also a champion of how it can work if done well. They breath life, time and time again, into franchises that have been around for decades. This strategy has obviously given them more money than some small countries, but also may be the reason they are struggling to get the Wii U off the ground.
imaginable and thanks to Princess Peach's certain affinity to being captured, he's always
needed to be her plumber in shining red armor. Seriously though, how many times can we save the Princess and be happy about it? Obviously, we all love the world, the characters, and the charm, but after a while it gets old.
Look at New Super Mario Bros. U, a game that came out only a few months after New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS. Sure, it had HD graphics and a beautiful over-world, but it was the same 2D side-scrolling action as that game and many before it. As Nintendo is currently seeing, rehashing old formulas is not enough anymore. It makes sense to keep the characters and the world, but the gameplay has to evolve as us gamers are evolving as well.
Nintendo is built on nostalgia. It has built an incredible cast of characters and they have every right to keep using them because people love them, but they need to be creative. They need to be the Nintendo that gives us experiences we didn't even know we wanted and if that experience includes Mario, then more power to them. Why do you think we loved Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Sunshine? They kept our favorite mustached hero but give him something brand new to do and blew us away with creativity and charm. With that type of thinking, not only will he thank you, but we will as well.
So all in all it boils down to this, Destiny needs to stand on its own and Mario needs continue innovating. These are two prime example of games that represent the broader spectrum. Nostalgia is great and will keep bringing fans back for more, but they are coming back for a new and fresh experience, not the same tried and true formula with some new pretty sprinkles on top. Honor your past but innovate and prepare for your future. Lay down the foundation now to create all new memories and moments that we all will be talking about for years to come.
Adam Bankhurst is one of the co-hosts of The Gamer's Advocate. Send him all your thoughts or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him @adambankhurst