Battlefield vs COD and the problems it brings.

As we come towards the end of summer, we start to reach the fever pitch time for videogames. Autumn brings the blockbusters and this year is no different: Deus Ex, Assassin’s Creed, and Batman all have new games alongside some new IP in the form of Dead Island and Rage. However, the killer IPs this year are undoubtedly the new FPS’: EA’s Battlefield 3 and Activision’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, and they are not presenting the industry as a whole in the best light.

Firstly, the sheer presence of the two games is crushing. Even given the list given above, this season is seriously thin on the ground compared to previous years. Two multi-million pound backed behemoth’s which will dominate the market beyond any shadow of a doubt, one of them (COD) already expected to the best selling media property ever on its release, outstripping it’s predecessor Black Ops. Who in their right mind would want to compete with that. The only people publishing in similar windows are either really established brands like Batman or Assassin’s Creed or games coming from publishing houses with a truly formidable reputation, like Rage from id Software. The focus on these is crushing competition and independent development in a way not seen in other media. The sheer cost of producing games compared to films ensures this, as does the outrageous marketing budget soon to propel both games into mainstream consciousness.

This is a sad situation, but it’s one which we can’t really blame the developers for too much. As consumers we decide what to buy, and the whatever things we buy get reproduced ad nauseam. What we can blame on the developers though, or at least the publishers, is the childish bickering and oneupsmanship that has dogged the two companies marketing campaigns and promotional interviews. I won’t go into specifics here because 5 minutes on google can bring you all the sorry details you could ever want but the damage that this is doing in indescribable. We must remember that as artform games are still in their infancy, striving for validity and acceptance, while the world at large still sees them as teenage boys plaything. How can we possibly portray these games as being adult when the two biggest publishing houses act like children themselves? Its shameful and in the end everybody loses. We must expect better of those two titans of the industry.

And finally, in relation to that, these two big games are essentially built around the same principle: isn’t it cool to shoot people. The supposed link between games and violence in teens and young adults is thankfully finding its rightful place in the rubbish bin as did previous links with heavy metal and films but there is a stubborn refusal in some elements of society to let go of games as being predominantly violent. These two releases don’t help, and neither does a schedule which includes Assassin’s Creed, Rage and Dead Island. Heck even Batman beats people to a bloody pulp. With the exception of annual mainstay FIFA 11, every single game has you killing the bad guy as the endgame. There needs to be a greater depth. Even if you insist on sticking with shooters there are beautiful possibilities in games like Child of Eden whose auditory and visual experience is unmatched in almost any medium. And you’re not shooting anyone, you’re cleansing a virus from a computer system, where success isn’t shown by explosions and blood but by bursts of colour and musical notes. This is where the future should lie, otherwise all we’ll be doing is propagating the same negative stereotypes that we so want to avoid.

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