Opinion: Video games have changed for the worse

Jonathan Marshall

I’m here to try to break down a strange movement in the gaming development world.

To give a very short background, I’ve played Nintendo games since I was a kid I practically lived off of the Wii and DS but had many friends with other games that I played from time to time. These included games like “Call of Duty”” and “Halo,” as well as “Age of Empires” and “Minecraft.” So it’s not only Nintendo, folks!

I feel like the time I was growing up was the “gaming golden age,” and not out of nostalgia. This was the beginning of the era of improving technology, where each game looked more real or beautiful than the last, but no matter what it strove to give players the best experiences possible.

Even during the awkward middle-school years where liking video games was seen as a nerdy thing, gaming was a social thing. Whether it was communally working to find a way around Cynthia’s infamous Garchomp, trying to figure out if his name was Bowser or Browser, or simply arguing over whether “Halo 3” or “Halo Reach” was better Reach, of course it was something that drew people together. Like them or hate them, video games were one more thing to talk about, one more thing to relax with after school on the weekends. This was the day and age in which programmers and storytellers united to create stories and experiences that they knew people wanted to witness and experience, something that no other medium does.

So, what’s this trend that I mentioned in the first paragraph?

Over time, there was a definite change in the game development community. Something changed over the past eight years, and that change is in accessibility. As the internet and new technology slowly expanded the many ways that people can both experience and purchase video games, the reason why companies began making games changed.

Now, when I say this I am talking in general: not every gaming studio is like this. But from what I’ve seen and understood, it became less about making good games and more about making good money. Now that video games have become more accepted and mainstream, a far cry from the 1990s, companies began to realize that you can really make good money off of them. It started small, in the age of “Call of Duty,” but it only grew from there.

This is where the dangers of micro transactions comes in. Companies, like Electronic Arts, for example, realized that they could make more money if they put cosmetic items in their games that cost real world money, such as a cooler-looking soccer jersey or something like that. And, by itself, that is technically harmless, since all that’s doing is adding something optional to the game that doesn’t affect real gameplay. But it can, and did, lead to a dangerous slippery slope.

This is where downloadable content and season passes come into the picture. See, I think these gaming companies realized something. They realized that, if they could make money off just cosmetic stuff, then they could make even more money with extra story content if it’s a single-player game or extra game modes and items if it’s a multiplayer game.

At first, this was harmless enough. People who enjoyed the base game got more content for a game they loved, the gaming companies got more money, everyone won. But things changed around 2014, when the gaming company Bungie, who made the Halo games, released their new space shooter, “Destiny.” The game was hyped up by many people, including old “Halo” fans and Bungie themselves, talking about this awesome story and gameplay and things of that nature.

But when the game actually came out, there was almost nothing. The story was literally half-finished, the gameplay was poorly balanced and it turns out that everyone had been cheated. Then, Bungie released the downloadable content, which of course was paid downloadable content. Though this content did fix some problems, it created others: namely price. Do you know how much “Destiny” cost if you bought the game and all of its downloadable content? $130.

That is a huge ripoff, and a dangerous ploy by gaming companies, especially because it worked. “Destiny” made so much money that it got a sequel which, conveniently enough, had the exact same problem of cut content as the original. It really felt like Bungie removed content from the base game just so they could sell it later.

“Destiny” definitely wasn’t the first game to do this, and definitely isn’t the last. But I believe that it represents a dangerous trend in gaming culture in which money comes first, and delivering good products is a distant second.