On the whole, I'd say games are far worse than they used to be. Fun has largely been displaced by compulsiveness. Delight, surprise and flow state replaced with games that are somewhere between 25%-95% slot machine. The most exciting part of a game not being the actual moment to moment gameplay, but opening the loot box at the end of the round.
Action RPGs? Slot machine with a clicker RPG attached. Online shooter? Slot machine with a shooter attached. Show me the game and I'll probably show you the slot machine.
It drives me nuts trying to navigate this new gaming landscape where most games are some percentage addictive slot machine. Because for starters, that school of game design has become so ubiquitous, it saturates even offline indie games. They don't need you to get addicted, log in every day, or spend money on micro transactions. But they lean into turning their game into a skinner box all the same, because it's just what you do now.
Which is not to say there aren't gems. Every time I go on this rant people start recommending games. Yes, I know Hollow Knight exists, and it's great. Yes, I've probably heard of that game too, even if I haven't played it.
So back to my problems navigating this new gaming landscape. I have no signals of quality any longer. Once upon a time, I could trust a certain studio or designer to generally make games I enjoy. Blizzard, Bullfrog, Origin, id Software, etc. And they'd churn out a game about every other year. You look at these studios output through the 90's and it's insanely prolific. In the neighborhood of 5-10 games each, all legendary hits! Now? Well, forget about those studios. And thanks to games as a service, if a studio manages to make a good game, they just keep making it. For 10 fucking years. Like Factorio, Stardew Valley or Minecraft. They just become "The Stardew Valley Company", to scared to pinch off the high point of their life and strive for something even better. And so, the fact that I actually enjoyed Factorio or Hollow Knight helps me almost nothing at all finding the next game I think I might also like.
Who knows, maybe Hollow Knight: Silksong will come out by the time I'm 50.
Don't get me started on the gaming press. I grew up generally trusting Computer Gaming World. Rereading their old issues for shits and giggles does take the shine off my nostalgic impression of them. But so far I haven't found them to be manifestly wrong the same way a lot of modern game reviewers are. Where they ding a game for not doing something they were too stupid or lazy to figure out. Or you watch them try to play a game only to see, they can't even make the first jump of a tutorial level. It becomes kind of obvious taking in the mainstream gaming press, talking points and advertising dollars went out, or they all saw the same presentation at a press junket, and everybody more or less just repeats that. And if gamers disagree, it's the gamers who are wrong. Or they just skip talking about the game at all, and instead get on their favorite soap box and start lecturing you.
So yeah, I have zero clue what games are good anymore. I can't rely on the previous output of studios, or look forward to the future output of studios. Reviews are basically worthless. I more or less have to wait until word of mouth becomes so overwhelmingly positive about a game, I feel compelled to finally try it. But that's not really compatible with wanting to find a game to play right now
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