251: Videogames: A Modern Folly

Ryan Lambie

New member
Apr 19, 2010
Videogames: A Modern Folly

A folly is the term for a building that is built purely for decoration and is usually ostentatious in style and design in order to attract viewers or tourists. Ryan Lambie believes that the videogames of today are merely modern follies.

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New member
Nov 25, 2008
There are some shining gems if you look hard enough, I have discovered a few: Mount and Blade Warband is an indie game with AAA makings that should not be overlooked.

Evochron: legends, THE space game, a must buy if you miss starlancer and space sims of the past.


New member
Mar 23, 2009
Ryan Lambie said:
It's safer to offer up a more gorgeous iteration of a past game than try something new. And what's the point in taking creative risks when gems as beautifully made and critically acclaimed as Okami or Scribblenauts are regularly overlooked by consumers in favor of another shooter or EA sports game?
Ah darn, this always 'scares' me. I really liked Okami and dream of a successful sequel to it, but that's never going to happen (at least there's a DS spin-off though). Instead, the studio that made the game is disbanded and sales are poor...

This saying is all but too true - It's kind of sad that creativity can take a down turn thanks to how our audience likes to purchase games. Thankfully we still have a segment to keep innovation up, but they're definitely getting smaller and harder to see nowadays.


Better Red than Dead
Aug 5, 2009
I agree completely. Games are no longer about introducing the player to a new world or concept; It has become a big budget contest to see who can cram the most high quality content into a single disc, without regards to new ideas. I hope there is a gaming renaissance soon.


New member
Nov 8, 2007
While I agree that improved game graphics, fmv (MGS I'm looking at you, can't believe how bored I was) and physics are being used to gloss over major holes in gameplay in far too many games available today I feel that part of the writer's argument is based on nostalgia for a very different situation to the one we have now.

Back when we only had a few pixels and KBs to keep us happy we were far more impressed and tolerant of the games available. Of course the early years had a dramatic effect on us - it was the first time we'd seen anything like them at home instead of having to pay a fortune in the arcades. Think of it like this - when Star Wars came to the cinemas people were amazed, now effects like this will show up in stuff like the new Doctor Who. Back then we were also amazed when VHS brought the cinema into the house. Now we have things like Blu-ray and VHS has almost disappeared: the technology is far better, but we're still getting inundated with crap films.

My main problem with games these days is that progression is too restricted. We get a few games that do something really well, and instead of building on these successes and creating something even better ... we just get hundreds of rip off imitations. But that's marketing and profit for you, isn't it?

Rad Party God

Party like it's 2010!
Feb 23, 2010
This is not something new. Travel back 10 years in the past and you could write this exact same article, except with some names altered, including Deus Ex among the lines of something "fresh and new" and Turok or Quake II instead of Metro 2033 (wich is by far the most underrated game of the year).

I remember reading some article in the same vein as this one, on an issue of the mexican magazine of Club Nintendo, when Zelda Ocarina of Time, Turok 2 and some other gems of the N64 era were just around the corner. And here we are 10 years later saying the exact same thing.

"They don't make games as before", "there are not enough new ideas". Most of the time this is very true, but gaming as come a long way in 10 years and while I agree that the FPS genre has been the same in more than 15 years, it's still one of my favorite genres. And I have to agree that only the indie scene is the boldest enough to come up with the most unique and fresh ideas around.

I wonder wich names are going to be altered in the next 10 years...

Bannor Bloodfist

New member
Apr 8, 2009
I agree with the idea that gaming has lost it's luster in regards to actually embedding you in a new world, inside someone Else's imagination. They do it today with flashy graphics, a bow to those that prefer the new graphics over story line, but they leave out the true imagination, they have appeared to discard the immersion factors and gone strictly for a shot at possibly being called upon to create a movie that will garner them millions of box office ticket sales, instead of capturing the audience with interactivity.

We are now entering the 3d world. True 3D, not just a 3d hd tv, but he future of total physical immersion into the actual game world. Another decade or so, and we will have true 3d like projectors similar to when Princess Leia was projected from R2D2 via an email message. With the technology that Nintendo WII introduced, we are coming much closer to true involvement with the games. Once true 3D projection hits the scene, without requiring those ridiculous red/green glasses, we may finally have something worthwhile.

My only true hope is that the folks developing this stuff, regain the idea that the PLAYER is the important part, the video cinematics only distract from the actual game. When I have to patiently sit through 3-5 minutes (or even 60-90 seconds) of someone ELSE telling the story, while cleaning my fingernails, waiting for the chance to actually DO SOMETHING with the game, well, lets just say that those titles have been played exactly once, and tossed into a box. Sometimes, they were never even finished when they found themselves in a stack of useless stuff in a closet somewhere.

Admittedly, I saw the original Star Wars movie, 17 times in the theater, most of that within the first week of release, Return of the Jedi got two chances with me, everything since has been lucky if I bothered going to the theater at all. Lets see... 17 X $4.50 == $76 that I invested into Star Wars the original... ticket prices went up, number of views went down after that by a considerable amount. Bioware's Neverwinter Nights, well, I have purchased every single expansion, every Premium module, and multiple copies or the entire game... Bioware ended up with well over $300 from me. Sure, the graphics levels have greatly increased with later technology, but I was not impressed with the other developer's interpretations as much as the original from Bioware. Bioware, at the time of Neverwinter Nights, was intelligent in regards to also giving the PLAYER, the ability to create their own worlds. True control over most of the environment they may have wished to create. Their successors have sadly dropped the ball.

Having loved Neverwinter nights as much as I did, I followed Bioware into other titles as well, but those other titles fell into the cinematic genre, where you sit through pre-scripted scenes waiting for control to be given back to the player. If I wish to view a movie, I can rent one or purchase one on DVD or Blue-ray disk... lose 2 hours, and then go do something else... for a game, I want something that is going to invite me back to play again and again.

With the Nintendo WII, we are getting close to that total immersion feeling, and at the end of play, I am physically tired as well as emotionally drained. This is a good thing... now, if they would only come up with games that actually interest my intellect as well, and then immerse me into a real 3d world... well, THAT I would pay handsomely for!


New member
Nov 8, 2007
I agree with you for a large part. If you're just pointing at developers when saying this I think the comment is fine. Innovation has been lost, as the saying goes, They are no longer hungry (like the expression, "stay hungry" if that was lost on you). But in all honesty I think major game publishers/developers are going to see the saturation and make change, with time probably, but like all things, when interest drops in video games because they are nothing but a rehash with a makeover, and everyone is tired of it...they'll change. Right now it's still profitable.

There is another side to this coin however. There were a good number of games that were unplayable because of technical limitations and glitches. Pixelated graphics on many occasions included objects crucial to the plot/narrative of the story that couldn't be identified because of how poorly pixelated graphics rendered these objects. And also, I think on some level, Some of the ideas to come through are indeed good ones. Repetition can be boring, and indeed many AAA games are that, but in all seriousness, some of those ideas needed to be explored and good content comes out for many of those games. Left 4 Dead leaps to mind as a good use of the fps motif. While still a shooter, simple in it's assail, it's a good condensation of the genre in that way. It inundates you with tasks demanding your well honed skills, and focuses on humor. It's a time waster and fun for it. (If only they hadn't changed the pathing...ah well)

Neither side is a good situation really. The technical hindrances of the past are gone, but we seem to have used up our ideas at the same time. People are coming up with stuff, and yes it's rare, but not all of the rehashed stuff is bad, and not all indie games are stellar in their concept. Somewhere in between seems to be where we want to be, and maybe where we're headed. Look at Steam's indie game list.

Tom Phoenix

New member
Mar 28, 2009
I find this article really ironic, since I essentially wrote the same thing in a post in another thread [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.190953-Where-the-hell-is-creativity-gone?page=3#comment_form] just yesterday:

Tom Phoenix said:
I think the problem is simply the fact that game development has become increasingly complicated over the years. In the late 70's/early 80's, it was preety common for games to be designed by a single programmer in a relatively short span of time. Nowadays, however, it is not suprising to have anywhere from 50 to up to 200 people involved with the development of a single game which (more often then not) takes many years to conclude.

The point I am trying to make is that in the past, game developers could afford to be creative. No, actually, they HAD to be creative, since the technological side was, in all regards, very underdeveloped. But today, with each game demanding so many resources to make, developers have been forced to eer on the side of caution. With most titles having trouble breaking even financially as it is, let alone making a profit, you just can't afford to take as many risks as in the past. as such, we end up with a situation where mainstream developers have to be cautios since they cannot afford to take risks, while indie developers have to be creative since they cannot afford the technology mainstream developers have.

Having said that, I do not believe that creativity is dead among mainstream games. On the contrary, the sheer fact that we can talk of trends in game development proves that creativity still exists. Afterall, before a trend could appear, there had to be a title that took the risk of using that specific concept while it was still thought to be bad and/or unprofitable. Only once a game like that succeeded did other developers take notice and try to recreate the concept (more or less successfully).

One more thing. While creativity is an admirable trait, it is not always a good thing to pursue. If you already have a good concept, there is nothing wrong with further developing it rather then dropping it in search of a new one. Infact, people can be put off if a game developer tries to be too creative and strays away from what made a specific game successful to begin with. Afterall, people tend to buy games from a specific franchise precisely beacuse they want to play more of what made the previous instalments good. Simply put, game developers shouldn't be creative for the sake of being creative.

In any case, I think the author is too harsh towards mainstream game developers. I seriously doubt all of them lack creativity. Afterall, I would not be suprised if many of them came from the same "bedroom programmer" demographic that created many of the titles from the 80's/early 90's.

Creativy entails experimentation, which in turn entails potential failure. But the problem nowadays is that companies can ill-afford for their titles to fail commercially. Most of the titles already cause financial loss for the company and they are lucky if they sell enough copies to break even, let alone make a profit. Infact, the success or failure of a single title could very well make or break a gaming company. If the game does not manage to sell, it could very well result in the company going bankrupt and dozens of people losing their jobs. And that is never a good thing, even in a growing industry where educated manpower is always in high demand.

This is not to say that mainstream game developers never take risks with games (infact, considering the potential consenquences mentioned above, it is even more impressive when they are bold enough to try new concepts). I am also not saying that any of this justifies the fact that some of the more successful companies prefer to stick to the tried-and-true rather then invest in new, interesting IPs out of a desire to maximise profit. But considering how risky producing even a single title can be, it is really not that suprising that mainstream game developers will generally perfer to stick to already existing concepts. Afterall, there is a reason why such concepts are used time and time again...history has proven them to be successful and something that people are willing to pay for.

Also, while I agree that it is the indie developers that usually come up with exciting new concepts, I think the author perhaps gives them a bit too much credit. Infact, the problem with indie developer is that they tend to be too creative. Consequently, their games end up relying on gimmicks which lack any sort of lasting appeal. A lot of the indie games can be compared to a good joke. It is incredibly funny and witty the first time you say it. But after you have heard it several times, it gets really old really fast. It is the same with indie games. They are cool to play with the first time around and stay good for a few more tries. But once the novelty wears off, it is unlikely you will be playing it much in the future, if at all.

Simply put, creativity is a great, yet fickle thing. It is certainly necessary in order to push the boundaries of gaming and explore new and potentially exciting concepts. But for game developers, being creative is not enough. They also need to be able to provide an overall solid experience that will convince gamers that their investment is worthwhile. So while I do agree that mainstream game developers (particularly the more successful ones) should be more bold when exploring new concepts, I think indie developers need to learn to curtail their creativity so that it does not get in the way of making a solid game. Afterall, new does not equal better.

More Fun To Compute

New member
Nov 18, 2008
All most people want these days are games where they get to torture and kill people in increasingly sadistic ways while having "dialogue heavy" RPG elements where NPCs tell them how intelligent, witty and all round awesome they are. Popular indie games are all jokes about how stupid we are for expecting games to play how they normally play or boring arty statements about how games are rubbish but lo-fi computer graphics are pretty neat. Nobody wants to create or play something like Lords of Midnight. *grumble grumble*

I actually do believe that there are plenty of good new games out there but remembering how great and unique some of the old spectrum games were can put today's scene to shame in some ways.

Not exactly sure where how the folly thing works. Some of those old games mentioned were very much working systems or simulations compared to a lot of recent games that have a lot more static designed, maybe even over designed, elements. Like a an FPS has a complicated corridor like levels designed so that they look good and unique from plenty of angles but the enemies are created only when you step into their room. Lords of Midnight has a big square map with many views that look very similar but all of the enemies and allies are there on the map doing their thing even if you don't cross their paths.


New member
Nov 20, 2009
Biased beyond all belief I felt like the writer had a grudge to pick with modern gaming and used this article as a vent for his grief..... That said he really failed to mention any new-age games that he thinks were good(sidescrollers don't count), I find it hard to believe every single new-genre game he has played has sucked. If you want to talk about innovation look at something like "Toy Soldiers" its a smaller made game but brings to mind those tower defense games all over the internet. They gave it a cool twist with being able to take manual control of the various "towers" you can put down in addition to vehicles such as tanks and planes. It doesn't use flashy graphics or intense detail, just a fun game building upon older forms of gameplay. How does that not count in this guy's opinion? The biggest folly I can see is this author's article.


The Saucepan Man
Feb 13, 2010
Dude, you seriously need to chill about this "innovation" in gaming. Yes the soaring cost of game production has left little chance for taking BIG experiments in mainstream gaming. The reason we see so few risk-takers is because the market has been saturated by generic games; in the 80s the gaming industry was still in infancy and had much too learn, new developers were coming with the "crazy" ideas that are now the Bibles of today. I will give you an example, DotA is a relatively unknown custom map of Blizzard's Warcraft III: being the largest community supported game, it has now invited a bigger firm, S2 to take up the torch and develop it into its own game. Innovation has always been there, it is still there, and always will be. You just have to look for it, that's all.


New member
Feb 17, 2009
More innovation? That's the goal here right? This is an absurd argument from someone who call out big game studios for always doing more. All they do is better technical aspects? All you want is bigger innovations. There is no different between the two. Gaming is only getting better and more acessable, so if you want to be a loner find a new hobby.


New member
Jul 22, 2008
I agree with alot of what this article says, but at the same time I agree with the comments made by people about the nostalgia element. I am a gamer of twenty plus years and find it very easy to get dewey eyed over games such as Treasure Island Dizzy, Manic Miner, Bubble Bobble etc, but I believe that the golden era of games is the era you start playing games, as the longer you play them the more jaded you get.

Lets not forget as well, that todays programmers have it much harder as most of the ground breaking in those days was done in coding, these days it is done in technology development.

Atmos Duality

New member
Mar 3, 2010
"Innovation" is a word that seems to be feared or routinely squelched once you get a major publisher involved, and it boils down to three simple words "Not Profitable Enough".

The FPS never really evolved beyond Quake? I'd buy that, though Starsiege Tribes and SWAT 4 is actually where I personally draw the line when the shooter stopped trying to innovate completely.

Gears of War and Halo were nothing original when they came out; they simply took existing concepts within the genre (melee attacks, cover, regenerating health) and refined them. The results might have been excellent, but the games were not revolutionary in my eyes; simply better built versions of pre-existing concepts.

To elaborate...
-Tribes plays extremely differently from any other first person shooter I know, due to the insane mobility and strict archetypes of the weaponry. In Tribes 2, there are exactly 2 Hit-scan weapons in the game, meaning aiming is more about movement strategy than simply "aim for the head. always". The concept of active base defense and team positioning didn't really come into its own until Tribes, yet no game to date takes it to such levels; it's all watered down now.

So why did the game die? Well, the genre of "High Mobility Shooters" has a surprisingly limited or niche fanbase. If you want to see what I mean, play ANY title from the following series:

Modern Warfare, Halo, MAG, Battlefield, Quake, Resistance, Killzone

The common denominator for all of those titles is the multiplayer learning curve. It's fairly low on average compared to Tribes, where you have to learn how to move in three dimensions in addition to learning how to aim.
Players move slow enough that precision aiming is relatively easy. Anticipating a target would be a total joke if you weren't forced to use a console* controller in over half of those.
That learning curve is the sole reason we will NEVER see another Tribes-esque game.
(*Perhaps there is a point to be made about consoles completely taking over the genre, but that's a different topic, and this response will be too long as it is.)

-SWAT 4 took concept of personal restraint and built the game around it.
You have to be able to make a decision on the fly if you want to do well. "Let God sort them out later" isn't going to please your superiors down at the precinct office, even if that's what you think. SWAT 4 requires you to check your fire first in all circumstances, and that statement alone is reason enough to scare away investors.

This game is about the polar opposite from Tribes, where the action is brought out in bursts.
Whereas a game like Halo is persistent, SWAT4 is resolved room by room, with your mistakes increasing the likelihood of failure tenfold over the course of a mission.

It was Vivendi Universal that shitcanned both of those series by the way, for the very same reasons I provided ("Not Profitable Enough"), but I can think of a dozen other concepts that weren't explored properly simply because they weren't a slam-dunk-pile-of-money, no matter how stagnant or trite they are under their shiny graphic shells.

Expect remakes and rehashes-dressed-as-sequels to dominate gaming for years to come.

What's worse, is that the game companies must continue this process ad-nauseum, or be bought out by whoever doesn't. That's the dark truth of the matter; EA would gladly swallow up and spit out Ubisoft or Activision if they could, and vice-versa.
They MUST continue to produce these 'follies' because they have already established the status quo; to deviate from it now would spell failure.


New member
Jan 18, 2010
That was a very well-written article; great job. It's very true that nowadays all mainstream titles are the same thing. Once the big publishers discover what people like, it's all they want to put out. And you're very true in pointing out that from Wolfenstein to present, shooters really haven't changed at all.

Thank God we still have indie developers.

Also, I'm gonna look into Lords of Midnight now. Thanks for the heads-up.