Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard

Well that certainly came out of nowhere! Microsoft has opened its wallet once again, this time buying up massive video games publisher Activision Blizzard for a whopping $69 billion. Nice.

After receiving criticism during the previous console generation for the lack of exclusive games on its Xbox One system, Microsoft has stepped up in a big way in the last few years. Early moves brought on board companies like Obsidian and Rare, and then last year came another shock announcement: the acquisition of ZeniMax – the parent company of Bethesda. All of those laid the groundwork for something big, and Microsoft has now added Activision Blizzard to its lineup, bringing on board hugely popular games and franchises like Call of Duty, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and even popular mobile game Candy Crush.

Microsoft will soon own Candy Crush!

At almost ten times the price of its Bethesda purchase, Microsoft clearly has big plans for Activision Blizzard and its games. Even by the standards of other corporate takeovers, $69 billion is a lot of money – an almost unfathomable amount. As Microsoft looks to expand its Xbox and PC gaming platforms, though, it makes a lot of sense to bring on board a company like Activision Blizzard.

Keep in mind that Microsoft is currently pushing hard to take gaming as a whole in a new direction, pioneering a subscription model based on the likes of Netflix – indeed, Game Pass was originally pitched as the video game equivalent of Netflix. Though on the surface the company seems to be taking a two-pronged approach, with its Xbox home console family and PC gaming being separate, in many ways that isn’t really the case any more. Microsoft’s goal is to bring these two platforms as close together as possible, offering most games to players regardless of their chosen platform. One need only look to two of the biggest releases of the past year as an example: both Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 came to both Xbox and PC, despite originally being franchises that were exclusive to consoles.

Forza Horizon 5 was a massive title for both Xbox and PC – and came to Game Pass on release day.

Let’s step back for a moment. My initial reaction to this news was disbelief! But after double-checking my sources and confirming that this was, in fact, not some kind of elaborate prank, my next thoughts were of the Activision Blizzard scandal, and how from Microsoft’s point of view this may not have been the best time to announce this acquisition.

There’s no denying that Activision Blizzard is a tainted brand in the eyes of many players, with the severity of the sexual abuse scandal cutting through to make the news in mainstream outlets when it broke last year. Perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, the scandal is part of the reason why Microsoft may have felt that the timing was right – Activision Blizzard shares had lost basically a third of their value over the last few months (down from almost $100 per share to below $65 prior to the acquisition announcement). Microsoft arguably made a savvy deal in some respects.

Activision Blizzard is a company embroiled in scandal right now.

There also seems to be a sense from at least some quarters of the gaming press and gaming community that Microsoft is “swooping in” to save Activision Blizzard from the scandal, perhaps even preserving the jobs of some employees or protecting games and franchises from cancellation. I didn’t really expect this reaction, and while it’s safe to say there’s been plenty of criticism to balance out some of the positivity, overall the mood of players seems to be more in favour of this acquisition than opposed to it.

We should talk about exclusivity before we go any further. Despite the hopeful – almost desperate – claims being made in some quarters, Microsoft isn’t going to publish Activision Blizzard titles on PlayStation forever. Once the deal has gone through and existing contracts have been fulfilled, expect to see all of Activision Blizzard’s new titles and big franchises become Xbox, PC, and Game Pass exclusives.

Starfield is a highly-anticipated Bethesda title – and it will be an Xbox and PC exclusive following Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda.

This is exactly what happened with Bethesda. Some players clung to the argument that Microsoft somehow wouldn’t want to limit the sales of some of these games to Xbox and PC players only, with some even going so far as to claim that we were witnessing the “death of console exclusives.” That hasn’t happened (to put it mildly) and we’re now expecting massive games like Starfield to become Xbox, PC, and Game Pass exclusives.

When Microsoft first jumped into the home console market in 2001 with the original Xbox, a lot of games industry critics and commentators argued that the company would open its wallet and spend, spend, spend in order to compete with the likes of Sega, Nintendo, and Sony. Microsoft certainly made some sound investments in games early on, but it’s really taken almost twenty years for some of those concerns to be borne out – and by now, the gaming landscape has so thoroughly shifted that it doesn’t feel like a bad thing any more.

It’s been more than two decades since Microsoft jumped into the home console market.

When Microsoft announced the acquisitions of the likes of Oblivion, Rare, and even Bethesda, there was still a sense that the games industry was pursuing its longstanding business model: develop games, release them, sell them, turn a profit, repeat. But now I believe we’re actually in the midst of a major realignment in the way the entire games industry operates – a realignment that’s shaping up to be as disruptive as Netflix’s emergence as a streaming powerhouse in the early 2010s.

Microsoft isn’t making all of these big purchases just to make games and sell them individually. That approach will remain for the foreseeable future, of course, but it isn’t the company’s primary objective. In my view, this is all about Game Pass – Microsoft’s subscription service. Microsoft has seen how successful the subscription model has been for the likes of Netflix – but more importantly for the likes of Disney with Disney+.

Disney+ is both an inspiration and a warning for Microsoft and Game Pass.

As streaming has become bigger and bigger in the film and television sphere, more companies have tried to set up their own competing platforms. In doing so, they pulled their titles from Netflix – something we saw very recently with Star Trek: Discovery, for example, which will now be exclusively available on Paramount+. Microsoft is not content to simply license titles from other companies – like Activision Blizzard – because they fear that a day is coming soon when other companies try to become direct competitors with their own platforms – muscling in on what Microsoft sees as its turf. If Sony gets its act together and finally manages to launch a Game Pass competitor on its PlayStation consoles, Microsoft will be in an out-and-out scrap, and pre-empting that fight is what acquisitions like this one are all about.

If Netflix had had the foresight to use a portion of the money it had been making in the early 2010s to buy up film studios or television production companies, it would have lost far fewer titles over the last few years, and wouldn’t have needed to pivot so heavily into creating its own content from scratch. I think that the Activision Blizzard deal is one way for Microsoft to shore up its own subscription service ahead of a potential repeat of the “streaming wars” in the video game realm.

The official announcement image.

So it isn’t just about “more games for Game Pass” – this deal is about Microsoft’s vision for the future of gaming as a medium, and also their concerns about other companies trying to elbow their way in and become serious competitors. Spending $69 billion may be a huge financial hit up front, but if it pays off it will mean that Game Pass will remain competitive and profitable for years – or even decades – to come. That’s the attitude that I see through this move.

And I don’t believe for a moment that Microsoft is done. Activision Blizzard may be the company’s biggest acquisition to date, but it won’t be the last. When the deal is done and has officially gone through – something that most likely won’t happen for at least twelve months – expect to see Microsoft lining up its next big purchase, and it could be yet another games industry heavyweight. There have been rumours in the past that Microsoft had considered making a move for Electronic Arts, for example… so watch this space!

Could another big purchase be on the cards in the next couple of years?

As a player, these are exciting times – but also turbulent times. I increasingly feel that it’s hardly worth purchasing brand-new games, because several massive titles that I’ve spent money on have ended up coming to Game Pass. In the last few days the Hitman trilogy has arrived on the platform, Doom Eternal landed on Game Pass last year, and even Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is now on the platform less than a year after its release. What’s the point in buying any new games any more? Let’s just wait and it seems Microsoft will eventually bring them to Game Pass!

This is, of course, an attitude Microsoft wants to foster. If Game Pass is an appealing prospect, players will stop buying games. Once they’re “locked in” to the Game Pass ecosystem, Microsoft thinks it’s got them for the long haul. This is how Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming platforms view their audiences, too: once someone has been hooked in, they tend to stay hooked in. That’s why they put the majority of their time and energy into recruiting new subscribers rather than ensuring current subscribers stay signed up.

This is all about Game Pass.

So it’s an interesting moment in gaming, and one that has the potential to herald an entirely new chapter in the medium’s history. People who decry the death of buying individual titles increasingly feel like they’re on the losing side; relics of an era that’s rapidly drawing to a close. Subscriptions have basically become the norm in film and television, with sales of DVDs, Blu-rays, and the like in what seems to be terminal decline. Television viewership, along with cable and satellite subscriptions, are likewise declining.

And who really feels that the death of broadcast television is something to mourn? Subscription platforms offered viewers a better deal – so they snapped it up. If Game Pass can do the same for gaming, more and more players will jump on board.

The Call of Duty series will soon join Game Pass.

Speaking for myself, I’ve been a subscriber to the PC version of Game Pass for almost a year-and-a-half. In that time, my subscription has cost me £8 per month ($10 in the US, I think). Call it eighteen months, and that’s £144 – or roughly the same amount of money as three brand-new full-price video games. In that time I’ve played more than three games, meaning Game Pass feels like a pretty good deal. If Microsoft continues to splash its cash on the likes of Activision Blizzard, bringing even more titles to the platform without asking me to pay substantially more for my subscription, then as a consumer I gotta say it’s worth it.

One corporate acquisition on its own does not irreversibly shift the gaming landscape. But we’re on a trajectory now that I believe will see gaming move away from the old way of doing business into a new era where subscriptions will be a dominant force. There will be advantages and disadvantages to this, but I don’t see it slowing down. As the likes of Sony and even Nintendo try to compete with Game Pass, if anything we’re likely to see this trend speed up.

Watch this space – because this certainly won’t be Microsoft’s last big move.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some promotional screenshots courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

How long is too long?

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers are present for Dying Light 2, Red Dead Redemption II, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

I’ve talked a couple of times about video game length here on the website, and specifically about how some games can feel too short to offer good value at their price point. Games which cost £65 or $70 but only last five or six hours routinely get criticised for being too short, but my argument is that they’re really just priced incorrectly – had a six-hour game cost £25 instead of £65, it feels like a better price point and thus better value.

Take Ori and the Blind Forest or Kena: Bridge of Spirits as examples – relatively short games (under twelve hours) yet priced around the £30 mark. Both games felt like great value at that price point, and no one seemed to argue that they were somehow “too short.” In my review of Kena: Bridge of Spirits I even argued that padding out the game much beyond the 12-hour mark would’ve been too much.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits was the perfect length for the kind of game it wanted to be.

Over the past 24 hours I’ve seen a different argument arise online, particularly in relation to upcoming action-horror game Dying Light 2. Developer Techland recently claimed that total completion of the game is expected to take in excess of 500 hours – longer, they say, than it would take to walk from Warsaw in Poland to Madrid in Spain. That’s a distance of 2,631 kilometres, or 1,634 miles.

Long-distance hiking aside, I’ve seen a lot of folks online actually criticising Techland and Dying Light 2, proclaiming that its length “isn’t a selling point,” or that the game is “too long.” Having tackled a similar argument before with games that were said to be too short, I wanted to take a look at this and consider whether a game can indeed be too long.

This recent boast from the Dying Light 2 developers hasn’t gone down well with everyone…

In 2020 I spent in excess of 120 hours playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and the longest I spent in any single game in 2021 was Red Dead Redemption II, which took me 103 hours to complete the main story and the epilogue. I’m not a completionist who has to get every single achievement and discover every single hidden item or collectable. According to Red Dead Redemption II’s in-game progress tracker, after my 103 hours I’d completed 84% of the game.

However, the remaining 16% was – for want of a better term – fluff. It consists of collectables, travelling to obscure locations, catching at least one of every fish… in a word, boring nonsense that I had no interest in! Likewise with Animal Crossing: New Horizons – after 120+ hours I felt I’d done everything that the game had to offer at least once, and I had no real interest in continuing to dig up fossils or buy random junk from the shop to keep playing.

After more than 100 hours, I’d completed 84% of Red Dead Redemption II.

Games have a natural lifespan, just like any other entertainment product. That length will depend on what the game has to offer, how repetitive some of the tasks and missions are, and many other factors. If Red Dead Redemption II had offered another 103 hours’ worth of proper story missions, I daresay I’d have kept playing because I found the story to be engrossing – but I wasn’t going to spend that time in a fairly static endgame world where all of the missions were complete and all I had left were collectables to find and minor tasks to perform. That doesn’t hold my interest.

For some folks, though, it does. Some games encourage players to keep playing over and over again, and in some quadrants of the gaming community, it isn’t uncommon at all to find players who’ve dedicated literally years to a single game, sinking thousands or even tens of thousands of hours of playtime into titles like Minecraft, EVE Online, or even the aforementioned Animal Crossing series.

EVE Online is well-known for having very dedicated players who play for years and years.

But statistics would seem to suggest that those kinds of players – and those kinds of games – are comparatively rare. For example, in Red Dead Redemption II, most players have unlocked the achievement or trophy for completing the game’s first chapter. Yet on all platforms – Xbox, Playstation, and PC – barely one in three make it to the end of the epilogue and see the credits roll. Red Dead Redemption II has been out for more than three years, so there’s ample time for most players to have progressed that far if they’d wanted to – but it seems that the game’s length sees more and more players drop out as the story goes on.

I like a long story. I’ll happily watch a television show with seven seasons or something like the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings films. And I enjoyed my time with Red Dead Redemption II. But perhaps players who seek out these very long experiences are in a minority – achievement stats for a number of big titles would seem to bear that out.

Scarcely one in five Steam players who started Red Dead Redemption II actually managed to finish its story.

I mentioned the length-versus-value debate at the beginning, and I think a variation of this argument comes into play for long titles just as it does for short ones. If a game is unnaturally “long” because it’s padded out with repetitive fetch-quests, a massive open world that takes ages to traverse, and hundreds of hidden collectables that make no impact whatsoever on gameplay and story, then a developer shouldn’t be bragging about length. That isn’t a long game – it’s a bloated, padded one, and one that probably won’t be much fun for 80% of the time!

This is what I think people were getting at with the Dying Light 2 situation. While some folks may feel that any game can be too long to be enjoyable, the real criticism seems to be that players are concerned that the developers of Dying Light 2 are making a nonsense brag based on how the game world is going to be stuffed with minor, inconsequential fluff. Tasks like shooting 200 pigeons in Grand Theft Auto IV aren’t actually a lot of fun for most players who wanted to complete the entire game, and while finally unlocking that last achievement or trophy may provide some folks with a brief hit of dopamine, the frustration of having to track down 200 obscure, hard-to-reach locations across a large open world probably wasn’t worth it.

Shooting pigeons was a minor task in Grand Theft Auto IV.

So is Dying Light 2 “too long” at 500 hours? Until the game is in reviewers’ hands and we can find out how many of those hours are spent on fun, interesting, or original quests, I don’t think it’s possible to say. Some people may argue that 500 hours will always be too long, and for them that may well be the case. Aside from Civilization VI, I can’t think of any game in the past decade that I’ve spent much more than 100 hours playing – so I guess I’m part of that crowd as well.

In principle, though, I don’t think 500 hours has to be too long for Dying Light 2. But it depends what the game has to offer by way of story, exploration, and engaging gameplay. If the bulk of players’ 500 hours is spent chasing boring collectables or slowly trudging across an open world that’s too large for the game’s mediocre level of content, then yeah, I’d agree that it’s too long and has been overstuffed with meaningless fluff. But if there’s a long story that manages to hook players in and keep their interest, then it’s a whole different conversation.

At the end of the day, we all want different things from our games. Folks who have busy lives and other commitments might feel the need for a shorter game, or a game that they can dip in and out of easily. Players with more free time or who like to stream their gameplay on Twitch might prefer longer, open-ended games that are chock-full of collectables. We all like different things, and there really isn’t an answer to a question like this that can satisfy everyone. If you think Dying Light 2 is going to be too long for you to enjoy… don’t play it, I guess. There are plenty of shorter games out there to take your interest instead. For my two cents, I’d rather see a game have too much content than too little, and be too long rather than too short – especially if it’s charging me £60 or $70!

Dying Light 2 will be released on the 4th of February 2022 for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, and PC. All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer and/or publisher. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A handful of older films, games, and TV shows that I enjoyed in 2021

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers may be present for some of the entries on this list.

At this time of year, practically every outlet – from dying newspapers to new social media channels – churns out list upon list of the best entertainment products of the year. The top threes, top fives, top tens and more of 2021 abound! I have something similar in the pipeline, but today I wanted to take a look back at a handful of films, games, and TV shows from previous years that I found myself enjoying in 2021.

I have long and seemingly ever-growing lists of films, games, and TV shows that I keep meaning to get around to! I still haven’t seen Breaking Bad, for example, nor played The Witcher 3, despite the critical and commercial acclaim they’ve enjoyed! I also have a huge number of entertainment properties that I keep meaning to re-visit, some of which I haven’t seen since we wrote years beginning with “1.” In 2021 I got around to checking out a few titles from both of these categories, and since there are some that I haven’t discussed I thought the festive season would be a great opportunity for a bit of positivity and to share some of my personal favourite entertainment experiences of 2021… even though they weren’t brand-new!

Film #1:
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)

We’ve recently marked the 20th anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s magnum opus. The passage of time has done nothing to detract from these amazing films, and this year a 4K Blu-Ray release has them looking better than ever before.

The early 2000s had some serious pitfalls for film and television. CGI was becoming more mainstream and many filmmakers sought to take advantage of it, but just look to the Star Wars prequels and how outdated the CGI in those titles is; it hasn’t held up well at all. The majority of the special effects in The Lord of the Rings were practical, and combined with clever cinematography even incredibly dense and complex battle sequences still look fantastic two decades on.

Though I don’t re-watch The Lord of the Rings every single year without fail, I’m happy to return to the trilogy time and again – and I almost certainly will be for the rest of my days! The Hobbit and Tolkien’s Middle-earth was one of the first fantasy worlds I encountered as a young child; I can vaguely remember the book being read to me when I was very small. The conventional wisdom for years was that The Lord of the Rings was unfilmable – but Peter Jackson proved that wrong in some style!

Film #2:
Despicable Me (2010)

I spotted this while browsing Netflix one evening, and despite having seen at least one film with the Minions, I hadn’t actually seen the title that started it all. I have to confess that I didn’t have particularly high expectations, thinking I was in for a bog-standard animated comedy. But Despicable Me has heart, and there were some genuinely emotional moments hidden inside.

The Minions got most of the attention in the aftermath of Despicable Me, and can now be found on everything from memes to greetings cards! The critters are cute, but they’re also somewhat limited – and I think it’s for that reason that I didn’t really expect too much from Despicable Me except for maybe a few laughs and a way to kill an empty evening. I was pleasantly surprised to find a much more substantial film than I’d been expecting.

There were still plenty of laughs and a ton of cartoon silliness to enjoy and to keep the tone light-hearted. But there was a surprisingly emotional story between the villainous Gru and the three children he adopts – especially Margo, the eldest. I can finally understand why the film has spawned four sequels, fifteen shorts, and a whole range of merchandise!

Film #3:
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

The Final Frontier has a number of issues that I’m sure most of you will be aware of. It arguably suffered from a little too much involvement from William Shatner, who sought to put Captain Kirk at the centre of the story at the expense of others. But The Final Frontier has some truly great character moments, including one of the final times that Kirk, Spock, and Dr McCoy would be together before The Undiscovered Country brought an end to Star Trek’s original era.

The film has some truly funny moments, too: the scene where Uhura catches Chekov and Sulu pretending to be caught in a storm being one, and Scotty’s moment of slapstick being another that never fails to win a chuckle. The Undiscovered Country was a great send-off for Star Trek’s original crew, but it was quite a heavy film with a lot of tense moments and high-octane action. The Final Frontier brings more light-hearted moments to the table, and that’s something I can appreciate when I’m in the right mood.

There are some exciting sequences too, though. The shuttle crash is a very tense and dramatic moment, and the final confrontation with the entity at the centre of the galaxy, while silly in some respects, does succeed at hitting at least some of those same dramatic highs. Though I wouldn’t suggest that The Final Frontier is anywhere near the best that Star Trek has to offer, it’s well worth a watch from time to time.

Game #1:
Control (2019)

Though hardly an “old” game, I missed Control when it was released in 2019. It had been on my list for a couple of years, and I was pleased to finally get around to playing it this year. The game had a far creepier atmosphere than I’d been expecting, with protagonist Jesse having to battle an unseen enemy called the Hiss.

One thing I really admire about Control is the way it made incredibly creative use of some fairly plain environments. The entire game takes place in what’s essentially a glorified office building, and rows of cubicles or the janitor’s workspace could, in other games, come across as feeling bland and uninspired. But Control leans into this, using the environments as a strength, juxtaposing them with incredibly weird goings-on at the Bureau of Control.

I also liked that, for the first time in years, we got full-motion video sequences in a game! FMV was a fad in gaming in the early/mid-1990s I guess, primarily on PC, and titles like Command and Conquer and Star Trek: Starfleet Academy made use of it. It had been years since I played a game with FMV elements, and it worked exceptionally well in Control – as well as being a completely unexpected blast of nostalgia!

Game #2:
Super Mario 64 (1996)

Despite the serious limitations of Super Mario 3D All-Stars on the Nintendo Switch, which I picked up last year, I can’t deny that it’s been fun to return to Super Mario 64. One of the first fully 3D games I ever played, Super Mario 64 felt like the future in the late ’90s, and even some titles released this year, such as Kena: Bridge of Spirits, owe parts of their 3D platforming to the pioneering work that Nintendo did with this game.

Super Mario 64 is and always has been good, solid fun. There doesn’t need to be an in-depth, complex story driving Mario forward to collect stars, because the game’s levels and bosses are all so incredibly cleverly-designed. Jumping in and out of different painting worlds is relatively quick and feels great, and the sheer diversity of environments is still noteworthy in 2021. Mario goes on a journey that takes him through snowy mountains, a sunken shipwreck, sunlit plains, cities, clouds, and more.

I can’t in good conscience recommend Super Mario 3D All-Stars. The way these games have been adapted for Nintendo Switch isn’t worth the asking price. But even so, going back to Super Mario 64 has been one of my favourite parts of 2021, a chance to reconnect with a game I played and loved on the Nintendo 64. If you’ve never played it, track down a copy and give it a go. You won’t regret it.

Game #3:
Red Dead Redemption II (2018)

I’d been meaning to get around to Red Dead Redemption II for three years – but I’d always found a reason not to pick it up (usually it was too expensive!) It took forever to download on my painfully slow internet connection, but it was well worth the wait. I’ve had a fascination with America in the 19th Century for as long as I can remember – I guess partly inspired by playground games of “the wild west” that were fairly common when I was young. I even had a cowboy hat, toy gun, and “Davy Crockett” hat when I was a kid!

Red Dead Redemption II transported me to that world in a way that I genuinely did not think was possible. Films and TV shows can do a great job at pulling you in and getting you lost in a fictional world, but the interactive element of video games can add to that immersion – something that was absolutely the case with Red Dead Redemption II. The amount of detail in the game’s characters and open-world environments is staggering, and having finally experienced it for myself I can absolutely understand why people hail this game as a “masterpiece.”

I wasn’t prepared for the many emotional gut-punches that Red Dead Redemption II had in store. In many ways the game tells a bleak and even depressing story, one with betrayal, death, and many examples of the absolute worst of humanity. But every once in a while there are some incredibly beautiful moments too, where characters sit together, sing, play, and revel in their bonds of friendship. Red Dead Redemption II gave me the wild west outlaw fantasy that my younger self could have only dreamed of!

TV series #1:
Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69)

I’ve re-watched quite a lot of The Original Series this year, probably more episodes than I’d seen in the past few years. Because of its episodic nature, it’s easy to dip in and out of The Original Series, firing up an episode or two to spend an hour with Captain Kirk and the crew without feeling the need to commit to an entire season of television.

The Original Series started it all for Trekkies, and I’m always so pleased to see that modern Star Trek hasn’t lost sight of that. In this year’s episodes of Lower Decks and Discovery we’ve gotten many references and callbacks to Star Trek’s first series, keeping the show alive and relevant as we celebrated its fifty-fifth anniversary – and the centenary of its creator, Gene Roddenberry.

Though dated in some ways, many of the themes and metaphors present in The Original Series are still relevant today. Society has changed since the 1960s, but in some areas we’re still fighting the same or similar fights for acceptance, for equality, and so on. The Star Trek franchise has always had a lot to say about that, being in some ways a mirror of society and in others depicting a vision of a more enlightened, optimistic future.

TV series #2:
Fortitude (2015-18)

I went back to re-watch Fortitude this year, for the first time since its original run. The series starts very slowly, seeming at first to be little more than a murder-mystery in a different setting. But it builds up over the course of its first season into something truly unexpected, crossing over into moments of political thriller, action, and even horror.

There are some truly shocking and gruesome moments in Fortitude, and it can be a harrowing watch in places. But it’s riveting at the same time, and I managed to get hooked all over again by the complex characters, the mysteries and conspiracies, and the bleak but beautiful arctic environment.

Fortitude featured some star names among its cast, including Michael Gambon, Stanley Tucci, and Dennis Quaid – the second-most-famous Dennis to be featured on this website! Although it was fun to watch it weekly during its original run, Fortitude is definitely a show that can be enjoyed on a binge!

TV series #3:
Family Guy (1999-Present)

Family Guy’s sense of humour sometimes runs aground for me, dragging out jokes too long or failing to pay off neat setups with decent punchlines. But with the full series (up to midway through Season 20 at time of writing) available on Disney+, I’ve found myself putting it on in the background a lot this year. The short runtime of episodes, the lightheartedness, and the way many of the jokes are often disconnected from whatever nonsense plot the episodes have going on all come together to make it something I can dip in and out of while doing other things.

There are some insensitive jokes, and some entire storylines in earlier episodes have aged rather poorly. But Family Guy seldom strikes me as a show punching down; it satirises and pokes fun at many different groups. In that sense it’s kind of halfway between The Simpsons and South Park; the former being more sanitised and family-friendly, the latter being edgier and meaner.

I rarely sit down and think “gosh, I must watch the latest Family Guy episode.” But if I’m in need of background noise or something to fill up twenty minutes, I find I’ll happily log into Disney+ and put on an episode or two.

So that’s it.

There have been some great films, games, and television shows that were released in 2021. But there were also plenty of entertainment experiences from years past that, in different ways, brightened my year. As we gear up for New Year and for everyone’s end-of-year top-ten lists, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, or just a relaxing day yesterday! I did consider writing something to mark the day, but I found that I had remarkably little to say that was different from the piece I wrote last year. 2021 has been “2020 II” in so many respects, unfortunately. However, unlike last Christmas I will be able to visit with some family members – I’ll be seeing my sister and brother-in-law later this week, which will be a nice treat! So here’s to 2021’s entertainment experiences – and as we enter the new year, it’s worth keeping in mind that we don’t only have to watch and play the latest and newest ones!

All titles on the list above are the copyright of their respective broadcaster, distributor, developer, network, publisher, studio, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 – final thoughts

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Luigi’s Mansion 3.

Time flies very quickly, doesn’t it? I think that might be the single spookiest thing about my playthrough of Luigi’s Mansion 3! I started playing last October, with a view to putting out a full “Let’s Play” series of articles in the run-up to Halloween, but once Halloween had passed by I put the game on the back burner for a while.

I like Luigi’s Mansion 3. It’s a fun game with some clever mechanics involved, there aren’t any bugs or random spikes in difficulty, and overall it’s the kind of sweet, lightly scary fun that I like to see at this time of year. From my perspective, though, it just didn’t make for a great game to write about in-depth for a full series of articles.

Let’s wrap up Luigi’s Mansion 3.

The reason for that is simple: Luigi’s Mansion 3 has some fantastic gameplay but is relatively light on story. You know the premise: the spooky Hellen Gravely and King Boo have kidnapped Luigi’s friends, and over the course of a dozen or so levels – represented by the floors of the Last Resort hotel – Luigi has to fight various ghosts and spirits to get them back.

In short, the fact that I can summarise the game’s entire story in a couple of sentences encapsulates what made it a struggle to write about in such depth. I could easily write a review of the game – but to give a blow-by-blow account of every interaction on every level, which I tried to do at first, quickly became repetitive. I didn’t think the articles I was putting together were all that interesting to read, let alone entertaining, so I really didn’t know what to do with Luigi’s Mansion 3 for a while.

The game’s title screen.

I kept promising myself that I’d get back to the series once I had a better idea for making the write-ups interesting. But the only thing I could really think of was condensing the articles into fewer instalments, and even then I still didn’t like what I’d produced.

This website has involved a degree of experimentation on my part. Some things developed organically – like the weekly Star Trek theories I write when a new season is running. Others have been attempted, but for various reasons didn’t work as I initially hoped. The Luigi’s Mansion 3 series of articles has been one such disappointment.

Figuring out how to write about Luigi’s Mansion 3 was a challenge.

However, I like to think I’ve learned something worthwhile from the experience! The biggest takeaway for me is that I have more to say and more to talk about when a game has a strong narrative. Once I’d got the prologue out of the way and settled into the Luigi’s Mansion 3 gameplay loop, I found myself running out of things to say. That says something about the way I write as much as it does about games like Luigi’s Mansion 3, and I know that a lot of people have published playthroughs focusing on this game – and many other titles with a comparable style. But this is my website, and I have my own way of writing and of approaching this format!

I would definitely like to do more playthroughs – but as I approach the subject again, I need to consider the choice of games carefully. I chose Luigi’s Mansion 3 last October specifically because it had a spooky theme, but I didn’t really stop to think about how the game works and what I’d be able to write about at the end of each play session. Having learned a thing or two as a result of this experience, I’d like to think any future playthrough series will be a much more interesting read from your point of view – and a much more enjoyable writing experience from mine!

The titular Luigi.

With all of that out of the way, what did I think of Luigi’s Mansion 3? Having never played the first two games in the series, I was coming at the game from a newbie’s point of view. There were a couple of points where having a bit more knowledge of either the greater Mario franchise as a whole or the prior Luigi’s Mansion titles might’ve provided a player with a little more – but this was mostly in the form of “easter eggs” and references; nothing story-wise or gameplay-wise relied on knowledge of other games.

And that’s the way it should be! Luigi’s Mansion 2 came out for the 3DS in 2013, and the original game was a launch title for the GameCube back in 2001, so expecting Switch players in 2019 – when the game was released – to remember everything from the previous two titles would’ve been an impossible ask! I felt Luigi’s Mansion 3 was approachable and newbie-friendly.

The first title in the series was released in 2001 on the GameCube.

Nintendo’s first-party titles are almost always high quality. I didn’t encounter any bugs or glitches, and only a couple of very minor graphical issues. Luigi’s Mansion 3 looked decent even on my 4K television screen, and the Switch’s graphics in general are fantastic considering the console’s size and portability. With a file size of only a little over 6GB, Luigi’s Mansion 3 packs a lot into a small package – making it quick to download and easy to store even on the Switch’s limited internal storage.

Gameplay was fun, and offered several completely unique elements that I’ve never experienced in other titles. Luigi’s main weapon is his vacuum – the Poltergust G-00 – which makes a return from the two older titles, albeit in an updated form. This fun and unique weapon allows Luigi to tackle ghosts in a variety of ways, including slamming them into the ground, bashing them against each other, and firing a shockwave.

Gameplay was great fun.

The Poltergust can also be used to fire a plunger which can be used to interact with the environment. Though it does have applications in combat, the plunger shot was largely useful for navigating previously-blocked areas of the hotel as well as uncovering secrets and hidden items spread throughout the game world.

The addition of Gooigi – Luigi’s gooey doppelganger – made navigating levels much more interesting. Areas that Luigi couldn’t access on his own were easy for Gooigi to reach, and this had functionality both to advance the main story and for idle exploration and retrieving hidden gems. Having two playable characters with different abilities isn’t something new in video games, but Gooigi put a unique and fun spin on the concept, and came in handy on many different occasions!

Gooigi and Luigi.

Story-wise, Luigi’s Mansion 3 was pretty basic. That’s to be expected, though, and what story there was was done very well. These kinds of games don’t go all-in on big, believable narratives, and that’s absolutely fine. What mattered in Luigi’s Mansion 3 wasn’t really the story but the gameplay, and in that regard the game was an enjoyable experience.

Hellen Gravely was a King Boo superfan, and kind of a parody of a certain type of obsessive fan that I think we all see from time to time. Otherwise the story was a riff on a very familiar concept in the Super Mario series – a nefarious evil-doer has kidnapped someone special to our hero, and he must fight his way past the baddie’s minions, working his way up to defeating the big bad herself, in order to save them all.

Hellen Gravely, the game’s villain.

Trapping Mario and the others in paintings was itself a riff on the Super Mario 64 idea, at least on a superficial level, so in that sense nothing about the story of Luigi’s Mansion 3 was groundbreaking. What it did was put its own spin on a couple of existing concepts, then execute those ideas very well. As escapist entertainment it was perfectly enjoyable, and there was enough of a story to keep the game’s momentum going.

As someone who isn’t really into horror, what I liked about the setting was that it retained a spooky, creepy aesthetic, but kept things kid-friendly. I would wager that all but the most sensitive of children would be able to play and enjoy Luigi’s Mansion 3, and as a game to play in the run-up to Halloween I can hardly think of a better one! Striking the right balance in a game all about ghosts in a haunted hotel is a tricky task, and it would’ve been easy for the game to slip up and become scarier than intended. Luckily it avoided that particular pitfall.

I had fun with Luigi’s Mansion 3.

So Luigi’s Mansion 3 is an odd one for me. I failed in my mission to write up a full playthrough, but despite that I actually had fun with the game itself. The fact that it didn’t make for a good writing project is more to do with how I like to write and what I look for when it comes to writing up a full playthrough of a game. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is everything you’d want from a title of this nature.

I’ve been meaning to write this conclusion for a little while now, and October seemed like the right month once again! To those of you who tuned in for my Luigi’s Mansion 3 playthrough last year, thank you. I hope you enjoyed the pieces that I was able to write. Stick around, because I’ve got other ideas for playthroughs that – fingers crossed – will be more substantial!

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is out now for Nintendo Switch. The Super Mario franchise – including Luigi’s Mansion 3 and all other titles mentioned above – is the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Game length and value

From time to time a video game will come along that causes controversy for its length. Titles like last year’s Resident Evil 3 remake, PlayStation 4 launch title The Order 1886, and even Gears of War 4 have all been criticised in some quarters for being too short, and whenever such criticism is made the same keyboard warriors crawl out of the woodwork. “There’s no such thing as too short!” they exclaim, stating that a game’s length doesn’t matter so long as the game itself is good. And that’s not an unfair argument; many players would rather play an excellent game that’s 6 hours than endure a bad game for 60 hours. But that isn’t the end of the affair.

This whole discussion seems to stem from a place of wealth and privilege. If someone has a huge budget for gaming, then of course the length of a game doesn’t matter. Paying £50 or £60 for a six-hour experience is absolutely fine – but only for players who can afford it. Many folks, myself included, have a limited budget for games and gaming, and the length of time we’ll be able to enjoy a game is thus a factor in deciding whether to purchase it and whether it meets our needs, especially considering how many games are out there waiting to be played.

Last year’s Resident Evil 3 remake is one title that has been criticised for its length.

In brief, if I’m confronted with two games that are each £55 (the standard price for brand-new AAA games in the UK at present) one of which is 6 hours long and one of which is 30 hours long, one game clearly offers better value than the other; I will get more gaming for my money with the longer title. “Enjoyment” is a nebulous concept which is difficult to quantify, but if we assume both games are in the same genre and both were well-received by reviewers, one game demonstrably offers better value.

It’s uncommon for me to pick up a brand-new title at launch specifically because of how pricey games can be. Though length isn’t the only consideration when deciding which new game to pick up, it certainly can be one factor among many. Though I would never say “short games are bad,” because many aren’t and can be a lot of fun, how much time I can expect to enjoy a game for is a factor for myself and, I have no doubt, for many other players with limited funds.

Anthem was also attacked in some quarters for its short campaign.

The length-to-value calculation assumes that games are initially offered at full price – £55 or $60 for the basic version, with some ultra-special editions going for a lot more. But there is a second component to this issue, and for me it gets right to the heart of the matter. Some games, such as Ori and the Blind Forest, are competitively priced right from the moment that they launch. Both games in the Ori series didn’t ask full price, and because both games were relatively short (at around eight and ten hours respectively) they still offered good value.

If a game only has six hours’ worth of content and asks for £55 or $60 up front, it deserves all of the criticism that it gets. But if the same game were to launch for £20 or £30, practically all of that criticism would melt away. The game could be seen as good value because it would be priced accordingly. Raw length on its own isn’t the issue, the real reason why some people – especially those of us on lower incomes or with less money for gaming – can feel ripped off by a short game is that they feel like bad value.

The Ori games aren’t particularly long, but they don’t charge full price either.

Getting the best value for money isn’t always about buying the cheapest product. If I buy an incredibly cheap roll of bin liners (garbage bags) but they leak so I have to use two each time, I haven’t necessarily got the best value. If I buy a cheap pair of headphones that break, and I have to keep replacing them every few months, I haven’t necessarily got the best value. The same is true of video games: I could log on to Steam or any other digital shop right now and buy the cheapest game I could find – but there’s no guarantee I’d enjoy it or even be able to play it.

Value for money exists whatever kind of product we’re talking about, and video games are commercial products. Just like the cheapest game isn’t necessarily the best value game, nor is the longest game. But when considering all of the different factors involved in deciding whether or not to go ahead and make a purchase, for a lot of folks length absolutely can be a valid consideration.

The Order 1886 is another title that was subject to criticism.

If a game is too short, and a player only has enough money for one new game, I can quite understand that player choosing to overlook that game in favour of a longer one. For someone whose primary hobby is playing video games, how long a video game lasts can be important. If a game is over within a few hours, and can thus reasonably be beaten in a day or even in an afternoon, someone on a limited budget could find themselves stuck with nothing to play for the rest of the week or the rest of the month.

This is why length matters. It isn’t the only thing that matters, and I don’t believe that most folks on this side of the argument are trying to simplistically argue that “short game equals bad game.” But what we are saying is that short games that ask full price aren’t great value, and that some publishers need to reconsider how much they charge if their latest title is particularly short.

Game length can be one factor in determining value for money.

There are many short games that I’ve played over the years that I had a lot of fun with, and I would never say that short games are inherently bad or not worth playing. But at the same time, when reviewing a title like that you can expect to see me comment on the length and even go so far in some cases as to recommend players wait until a game’s price is reduced before picking it up. That’s simply because of my own perception of a game’s value.

Think about it like this: a six-hour game that costs $60 is charging you $10 per hour of playtime, whereas a six-hour game priced at $20 is only charging $3.33 per hour of playtime, and a game with a hundred hours’ worth of content at $60 is charging you a mere 60¢ per hour of playtime. Now it’s true that not all games and thus not all hours of gameplay are created equal, but assuming that we’re looking at games with similar review scores within the same genre then I think the comparison is apt.

Let’s conclude by answering a question: can a game be too short? No, but it can be too short to offer good value at its price point. Asking for games to be priced accordingly instead of blindly leaping to the defence of publishers who are, in some cases at least, trying to get away with overcharging and underdelivering, will see this argument all but disappear.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promotional art courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

More of the worst things about modern video games

A couple of months ago I took a look at some of the trends I hate the most in the modern games industry. But one list wasn’t comprehensive enough, apparently, because I’ve found ten more of the worst things to look at today!

Gaming as a hobby has come a long way since I first owned a Super Nintendo. Games have evolved from being little more than electronic toys to being a legitimate artistic and storytelling medium in their own right, and many of my favourite entertainment experiences of all time are in the gaming realm. Games can equal, and in some cases surpass, film and television.

Mass Effect 2 has to be one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced.

But not everything about gaming is fun! There are annoyances and problems with games today, some of which didn’t exist a few years ago, and others which have dogged the medium since its inception. As always, this list is entirely subjective, so if I criticise something you like, or ignore something you hate, please keep in mind that all of this is just the opinion of one person. If you want to check out my previous list, you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

With all that out of the way, let’s get started!

Number 1: Checkpoints

Cal Kestis at a checkpoint in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Is it 1996? No? Then let’s stop using checkpoints and allow players the freedom to save their game whenever and wherever they need to! With relatively few sensible exceptions – like in the middle of a boss fight or during a cut-scene – there’s no reason why modern games can’t incorporate a free save system.

Checkpoints were a limitation of older hardware and software; games and consoles weren’t always able to offer players the ability to save the game anywhere, so designated save zones – or checkpoints – had to be incorporated. This was already a step up from passwords that you had to write down (remember those?) but checkpoints are simply unnecessary and out-of-date in modern games.

Control also uses a checkpoint system.

With gaming having grown in the years since checkpoints were the only way to manage save files, more people from different backgrounds are getting into the hobby – including many more adults, working-age people, and folks with less free time. Having to replay a lengthy section of a game because the game didn’t offer the freedom to save when you needed to is incredibly frustrating, and considering that there is no technical reason for not implementing a proper save system, in my opinion there’s no excuse.

Whine all you want about “vision” and “integrity” and that players should “git gud,” but a lot of folks simply want to play through a fun and entertaining narrative. We also want to play through it once, not multiple times because of the lack of a convenient save function. Checkpoints seemed to have largely disappeared until the likes of Dark Souls brought them back as part of its “extreme difficulty” shtick. But there’s a difference between a challenge and something frustrating; checkpoints are definitely in the latter category.

Number 2: Boring and/or repetitive side-missions

“Another settlement needs our help.”

It’s no good bragging about the number of quests or missions in your game if 80% of them are the same – or equally as bad as each other! Open-world games tend to fall victim to this, but it’s a phenomenon that can plague all manner of different titles.

These kinds of missions follow one of a couple of different formulae: “go to location X and pick up item Y” or “go to location X and kill Y number of enemies.” Then that’s it. Mission over, receive a few experience points or a random, usually-not-worth-it item, and repeat. Such quests are nothing but padding for a game that should’ve been shorter and more focused.

The Mako in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.

Even otherwise good games can end up going down this route. Mass Effect 1 is a case in point. The main story missions in the game are phenomenal, and while the stories which set up some of the side-missions sound like they could be potentially interesting, each one basically consists of “drive vehicle to location, kill enemies, press button.” Because 90% of the side-missions use basically identical maps and environments, this gets old fast – even if the storyline setting up the mission seems superficially interesting.

If you can’t make a good side-mission, skip it. I’d rather play a game that isn’t as long but doesn’t have this unnecessary fluff padding it out and, frankly, wasting my time.

Number 3: Collect-a-thons

Another feather. Yay.

On a related note, many open-world games have recently begun being padded out with miscellaneous items to collect. Upon picking up a feather, for example, the game will tell you that you’ve discovered 1/100 – only 99 more to go! These items almost always have no impact on the plot or gameplay of a title, and often don’t even give out a reward for finding all of them. At most you might get a trophy or achievement for collecting all of them.

At least boring side-missions usually have some kind of setup. A villager needs you to kill the rats in his basement, an admiral needs you to shut down all four computer cores, etc. Though the missions themselves are junk, a modicum of thought went into their creation. Collect-a-thons have no such redeeming feature. Often the items to be collected are so random that they have no link whatsoever to the plot or character.

Pigeons in Grand Theft Auto IV are another example.

Why does my grizzled war veteran on a mission to save the world need to spend his time hunting down 100 feathers or 50 leaves? If the items did something – anything – like if they could be used for crafting or if they were notes or recordings containing lore and info about the game world, well at least there’d be a point. It wouldn’t necessarily be a good point, but still.

These items are added into games – often in obscure or hard-to-reach places – purely to pad out the game and extend its runtime. They serve no purpose, either narratively or in terms of gameplay, and while I have no doubt that some players find collecting every single in-game item fun, for me I’d rather the effort and attention wasted on features like this was refocused elsewhere. One side-mission, even an average one, would be better than 100 random pieces of shit to collect.

Number 4: Online cheating

An aimbot for popular game Fortnite.

If you have a single-player game and want to turn on god mode or assisted aiming, go for it. Cheats can sometimes be accessibility features, offering a route through a game for players with disabilities, as well as providing a way to skip the grind for players who don’t have much time. But when you go online and play against real people, you damn well better leave the cheats behind!

There are so many examples of cheating players getting caught and banned that it can be kind of funny. Even some professional and wannabe-professional players have been caught out and learned the hard way that the internet never forgets. But no one should be doing this in the first place.

Some losers even cheated at Fall Guys, for heaven’s sake…

Trying to take away the most fundamental tenet of competition – fairness – is so phenomenally selfish that I don’t even know what to say. If there were a financial incentive – like winning the prize money at a big tournament – I could at least recognise that some folks would be tempted to try to take the easy route to payday. But in a game like Fall Guys where it’s supposed to be fun… I just don’t get why someone would feel the need to cheat.

Some games have a bigger problem with cheating than others, and games that don’t get a handle on a cheating problem fast can find themselves in serious jeopardy. It’s unfortunate that the anonymity of the internet means that a lot of players simply get away with it, with some even going so far as to use “disposable” accounts, so that if one gets banned they can just hop to another and keep right on cheating.

Number 5: Overly large, confusing levels

Looks like fun…

We kind of touched on this last time when considering empty open worlds, but some games have poorly-designed levels that are too large and almost maze-like. Getting lost or running in circles – especially if no map is provided – can become frustrating very quickly. These kinds of levels are often repetitive and bland with little going on.

Some games have levels which are simply not well laid-out, making it difficult to find the right path forward. I’ve lost count of the number of times I was trying to explore, thinking I was investigating a side-area, only to find it was the main path forward, and vice versa. Advancements in technology – particularly as far as file sizes go – have meant that levels and worlds can be physically larger. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes it isn’t!

This also applies to featureless open worlds or maps without landmarks for ease of navigation.

If a game has a map, or if a level is well-signposted (either literally or figuratively) then it shouldn’t matter how large it is. Players will be able to figure out where to explore and where to go to proceed with the story or quest. But too often that isn’t the case, and getting lost, backtracking, or not knowing where to go are all annoyances! Not every level has to be massive. Some work far better when kept concise, especially if the number of things to find or do in the level are limited.

Obviously I don’t include in this category mazes or levels which are deliberately designed to be puzzling. Some games make clever use of deliberately puzzling levels, where exploring and figuring out the right path is all part of the fun. Others just screw up their level design and leave players wandering around, confused.

Number 6: Orphaned franchises/unfinished stories

I’m not even going to say it…

Though the phenomenon of a story being abandoned partway through is hardly new – nor even unique to gaming – the rise of more cinematic, story-driven games since the turn of the millennium has brought this issue to the fore. The first encounter I had with this was in 2001 when Shenmue II dropped off the face of the earth (following abysmal sales in Japan and elsewhere) meaning that the saga was never finished.

But it isn’t just financial failures that don’t land sequels. The lack of a third game in the Half-Life series has become a joke at this point, more than fifteen years after the last mainline entry in the series. Fans have been clamouring for Half-Life 3 for a long time, and the recent success of VR title Half-Life: Alyx proves there’s a market and that the game’s audience is still here.

Will there ever be a Bully 2?

Sometimes a studio gets busy with other projects. There hasn’t been a new Elder Scrolls game, for example, in part because Bethesda has worked on the Fallout franchise and Starfield in the years since Skyrim was released. But there are also plenty of cases where a developer or publisher finds a cash-cow and abandons all pretence at making any new game so they can milk it dry.

Look at Rockstar with Grand Theft Auto V’s online mode, or Valve with its Steam digital shop and the success of online games like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Those studios could make new games or sequels to existing games, but instead choose to focus on older titles. Similarly, studios like Bethesda found success by porting existing games to new and different hardware, as well as releasing new or updated versions of older games.

Number 7: Ultra Special Super Extreme Deluxe Editions

How many different “editions” does a game need?!

I’m not talking about so-called “collector’s editions” of games, which are often simply the game plus a statue or other memorabilia. Those can be fine, because if someone is willing to part with silly money to get a resin statue of an in-game character who am I to judge? What I greatly dislike are games that are sold with multiple “editions” – i.e. a “basic” version with missing features, then several progressively more expensive versions with those missing features added back in.

Some games take this to silly extremes, with a “basic” version retailing for full price (£55/$60) and the most expensive “deluxe” edition being far more expensive for the sake of adding in-game content (extra skins, missions, etc.) that were literally developed alongside the main game then cut out. Some of these ultra extreme special editions can retail for £80, £90, or even £100 in some cases, and that’s just deceptive.

Sports games, like the FIFA series, do this a lot.

This is an evolution of the “day-one DLC” phenomenon that was present a few years ago. In the case of Mass Effect 3, for example, an entire main character, a mission to recruit them, and all of their scenes and dialogue, was literally developed along with the game, perfectly integrated and designed to be part of the game, then cut out and sold as downloadable content literally on the day the game launched.

In multiplayer titles, the extreme special supreme editions can come with in-game advantages, making them literally pay-to-win. In free-to-play games, perhaps a degree of paying for an advantage is to be expected – but some of these games are asking full price, then giving a competitive advantage to players who pay above full price.

Number 8: Unrepresentative trailers/marketing material

Anthem made a fake trailer… and look what happened to the game.

I used to work in video games marketing, and I thought I’d seen every shady trick in the book! But some of the trailers and marketing material that publishers show off in the run-up to the launch of a new game can be downright deceptive. Some games, like notorious failure Anthem, even went so far as to create fake “in-game” footage to be shown off at marketing events, which is incredibly bad form.

Cyberpunk 2077 is another example. That game was developed to run on high-end PCs and next-gen consoles, and the Xbox One/PlayStation 4 version was so poorly-optimised when it launched that many folks considered it to be literally “unplayable.” The trailers and marketing material hid this fact, and developer CD Projekt Red deliberately kept those versions of the game away from reviewers. The result was that no one realised how broken the game was until it was too late.

CD Projekt Red didn’t show things like this in the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer…

Mobile games are notorious for putting out trailers that are entirely unrepresentative of the games they’re selling. Many mobile games are samey, basic tap-a-thons with unimpressive graphics and mediocre gameplay, yet the trailers make them seem like big-budget console-quality games. In a way this isn’t new; 2D games in the 8-bit era were often marketed with cartoons and fancy graphics that made them look far better than they were!

The thing is, unrepresentative marketing always comes back to bite a company. Just ask CD Projekt Red, whose implosion in the aftermath of Cyberpunk 2077′s abysmal launch will enter gaming history.

Number 9: Massive patches and updates

Yikes.

Last time I criticised ridiculously huge file sizes for games, and this time I want to pick on updates and patches in particular. There’s no feeling more disappointing than sitting down to play a game you’ve been looking forward to all day only to find that either the game or the console needs to download a stupidly large update before you can jump in.

Some updates can be dozens of gigabytes, and if you’re on a slow internet connection (like I am) or have limited downloads, it can take forever to update the game – or be outright impossible. Once again, folks with limited time for gaming are in trouble here; even on a reasonably fast connection, a massive update can cut into or erase the time someone set aside for gaming.

After buying a brand-new console, downloading patches and updates can be a time-consuming task.

The stupid thing is that many of these updates appear to change absolutely nothing! I’ve lost track of how many times Steam has updated itself on my PC, for example, only to look exactly the same every time. While it’s good that games companies can roll out bug fixes, patch out glitches, and even fix cheating issues remotely, these things can happen at the most inconvenient times!

In the run-up to Christmas it’s now commonplace, even in mainstream news outlets, to see advice given to update new consoles and games before giving them out as presents. Little Timmy’s Christmas would be ruined if he had to spend all of Christmas Day waiting around for his new PlayStation to update before he could use it!

Number 10: We’re drowning in sequels, remakes, and spin-offs

The Final Fantasy series is up to its fifteenth mainline title…

It’s increasingly rare for a games company to produce a new game that isn’t based on an existing franchise or property. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an issue unique to gaming – it’s happening on television and in cinema too. We’re 100% in the era of the franchise.

As great as it is to play a sequel to a much-loved title, it’s also great fun to get stuck into a completely new story with new characters and a new world. Unfortunately, as is the case in television and cinema, companies are increasingly viewing brand-new stories as risky – if fans don’t respond well then their investment will have been wasted!

How many Call of Duty games have there been by now?

Sooner or later, I think this franchise and sequel mania has to break. It can’t go on forever, not least because existing franchises will run out of material and fans will lose interest. But right now it shows absolutely no signs of abating, and some video game franchises have become annual or almost-annual fixtures. The Call of Duty series is a case in point – there’s been a new game every year since 2005.

I appreciate studios willing to stick their necks out and take a risk. Control is a good recent example of a successful new IP, and Starfield will be Bethesda’s first wholly new property in decades when it’s finally ready. But there’s certainly less storytelling innovation than there used to be, and fewer new games in favour of sequels, franchises, and spin-offs.

So that’s it. Ten more things that bug me about modern gaming!

I’m sure I’ll be able to think of more later!

Although we’ve now found twenty annoying trends in modern gaming, the hobby is generally in a good place. Technological improvements mean games look better than ever, and the increase in gaming’s popularity has seen more money enter the industry, as well as quality standards generally rising rather than falling. There are problems, of course, but the industry as a whole isn’t in a terrible place.

At the end of the day, it’s fun to complain and have a bit of a rant! The last list I published seemed to be well-read, so I hope this one has been a bit of fun as well! Now if only someone would make a Star Trek video game… perhaps the lack of one warrants a place on my next list!

You can find my first list of the worst things about modern video games by clicking or tapping here.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promotional art courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The worst things about modern video games

The first home console I owned – after saving up my hard-earned pocket money and pestering my parents for ages – was a Super Nintendo. Gaming has changed a lot since then, and while many of those changes have been fantastic and introduced us to new genres, not every change has been for the better! In this list I’m going to cover some of my biggest pet peeves with video games in 2021.

As always, this list is entirely subjective. If I criticise something you like, or exclude something you hate, just keep in mind that this is only one person’s opinion. Gaming is a huge hobby that includes many people with many different perspectives. If yours and mine don’t align, that’s okay!

Number 1: No difficulty options.

Some people play video games because they love the challenge of a punishingly-difficult title, and the reward of finally overcoming an impossible level after hours of perseverance. I am not one of those people! In most cases, I play video games for escapism and entertainment – I want to see a story unfold or just switch off from other aspects of my life for a while. Excessive difficulty is frustrating and offputting for me.

As someone with health issues, I would argue that difficulty settings are a form of accessibility. Some people don’t have the ability to hit keys or buttons in rapid succession, and in some titles the lack of a difficulty setting – particularly if the game is not well-balanced – can mean those games are unavailable to folks with disabilities.

While many games are too difficult, the reverse can also be true. Some titles are just too easy for some people – I’m almost never in that category, but still! Games that have no difficulty settings where the base game is incredibly easy can be unenjoyable for some folks, particularly if the challenge was what got them interested in the first place.

In 2021, most games have difficulty options as a standard feature. Difficulty settings have been part of games going back decades, and in my opinion there’s no technical reason why they shouldn’t be included. There’s also not really a “creative” reason, either. Some developers talk in grandiose terms about their “vision” for a title being the reason why they didn’t implement difficulty options, but as I’ve said before – the inclusion of an easier (or harder) mode does not impact the game at all. It only impacts those who choose to turn it on, and considering how easy it is to implement, I find it incredibly annoying when a game is deliberately shipped without any difficulty options.

Number 2: Excessive difficulty as a game’s only selling point.

While we’re on the subject of difficulty, another pet peeve of mine is games whose entire identity is based on their difficulty (or perceived difficulty). Think about this for a moment: would Dark Souls – an otherwise bland, uninspired hack-and-slash game – still be talked about ten years after its release were it not for its reputation as impossibly difficult? How many late 2000s or early ’10s hack-and-slash games have dropped out of the cultural conversation? The only thing keeping Dark Souls there is its difficulty.

A challenge is all well and good, and I don’t begrudge players who seek that out. But for me, a game has to offer something more than that. If there’s a story worth telling under the difficult gameplay I’m impressed. If the difficult, punishing gameplay is all there is, then that’s boring!

Difficulty can also be used by developers as cover for a short or uninteresting game. Forcing players to replay long sections over and over and over can massively pad out a game’s runtime, and if that’s a concern then cranking the difficulty to ridiculous levels – and offering no way to turn it down – can turn a short game into a long one artificially.

I’m all for games that offer replay value, but being forced to replay the same level or checkpoint – or battle the same boss over and over – purely because of how frustratingly hard the developers chose to make things simply isn’t fun for me.

Number 3: Ridiculous file sizes.

Hey Call of Duty? Your crappy multiplayer mode does not need to be 200 gigabytes. Nor does any game, for that matter. It’s great that modern technology allows developers to create realistic-looking worlds, but some studios are far better than others when it comes to making the best use of space! Some modern games do need to be large to incorporate everything, but even so there’s “large” and then there’s “too large.”

For a lot of folks this is an issue for two main reasons: data caps and download speeds. On my current connection I’m lucky to get a download speed of 7 Mbps, and downloading huge game files can quite literally take several days – days in which doing anything else online would be impossibly slow! But I’m fortunate compared to some people, because I’m not limited in the amount of data I can download by my ISP.

In many parts of the world, and on cheaper broadband connections, data caps are very much still a thing. Large game files can take up an entire months’ worth of data – or even more in some cases – making games with huge files totally inaccessible to a large number of people.

This one doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon, though. In fact, we’re likely to see file sizes continue to get larger as games push for higher resolutions, larger environments, and more detail.

Number 4: Empty open worlds.

Let’s call this one “the Fallout 76 problem.” Open worlds became a trend in gaming at some point in the last decade, such that many franchises pursued this style even when it didn’t suit their gameplay. Read the marketing material of many modern titles and you’ll see bragging about the size of the game world: 50km2, 100km2, 1,000km2, and so on. But many of these open worlds are just empty and boring, with much of the map taken up with vast expanses of nothing.

It is simply not much fun to have to travel across a boring environment – or even a decently pretty one – for ages just to get to the next mission or part of the story. Level design used to be concise and clever; modern open worlds, especially those which brag about their size, tend to be too large, with too little going on.

The reason why Fallout 76 just encapsulates this for me is twofold. Firstly, Bethesda droned on and on in the weeks before the game’s release that the world they’d created was the “biggest ever!” And secondly, the game had literally zero non-player characters. That huge open world was populated by a handful of other players, non-sentient monsters, and nothing else. It was one of the worst games of the last few years as a result.

Open worlds can work well in games that are suited for that style of gameplay. But too many studios have been pushed into creating an open world simply to fit in with a current trend, and those open worlds tend to just flat-out suck because of it. Even when developers have tried to throw players a bone by adding in collect-a-thons, those get boring fast.

Number 5: Pixel graphics as a selling point.

There are some great modern games that use a deliberately 8-bit look. But for every modern classic there are fifty shades of shit; games that think pixel graphics and the word “retro” are cover for creating a mediocre or just plain bad title.

It may be hard to remember, but there was a time when the idea of using a deliberately “old-school” aesthetic would have been laughed at. The first few console generations were all about improvements, and I’m old enough to remember when 3D was a huge deal. It seemed like nobody would ever want to go back to playing a SNES game after trying the Nintendo 64, and while there are still plenty of gamers who love the retro feel, I’m generally not one of them.

That isn’t to say that realistic graphics should be the only thing a game strives for. And this point works for modern graphics or visual styles in general – bragging about how detailed the graphics are, or how unique a title’s art style is, means nothing if the game itself is shit. But it likewise works for pixel-graphics games – an outdated art style does not compensate for or cover up a fundamentally flawed, unenjoyable experience.

Games with pixel graphics can be good, and many titles have surprised me by how good they are. I’ve written before about how Minecraft surprised me by being so much more than I expected, and that’s one example. But I guess what I’d say is this: if your game looks like it should have been released in 1991, you’ve got more of an uphill battle to win me over – or even convince me to try it in the first place – than you would if your game looked new.

Number 6: Unnecessary remakes.

We called one of the entries above “the Fallout 76 problem,” so let’s call this one “the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition problem.” In short, games from even ten or fifteen years ago still look pretty good and play well. There’s far less of a difference between games from 2011 and 2021 than there was between games from 1991 and 2001 – the pace of technological change, at least in gaming, has slowed.

“Updating” or “remaking” a game from ten years ago serves no real purpose, and in the case of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition I’ve struggled at times to tell which version of the game is the new one when looking at pre-release marketing material. There’s no compelling reason to remake games that aren’t very old. Re-release them or give them a renewed marketing push if you want to drum up sales or draw attention to a series, but don’t bill your minor upgrade as a “remake.”

There are some games that have benefitted hugely from being remade. I’d point to Crash Bandicoot and Resident Evil 2 as two great examples. But those games were both over twenty years old at the time they were remade, and having been released in the PlayStation 1 era, both saw massive upgrades such that they were truly worthy of the “remake” label.

I’ve put together two lists of games that I’d love to see remade, but when I did so I deliberately excluded titles from the last two console generations. Those games, as I said at the time, are too recent to see any substantial benefits from a remake. In another decade or so, assuming sufficient technological progress has been made, we can talk about remaking PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 games – but not now!

Number 7: Fake “remakes.”

On a related note to the point above, if a title is billed as a “remake,” I expect to see substantial changes and improvements. If all that’s happened is a developer has run an old title through an upscaler and added widescreen support, that’s not a remake!

A lot of titles that acquire the “HD” suffix seem to suffer from this problem. Shenmue I & II on PC contained a number of bugs and glitches – some of which existed in the Dreamcast version! When Sega decided to “remake” these two amazing games, they couldn’t even be bothered to patch out bugs that were over fifteen years old. That has to be some of the sloppiest, laziest work I’ve ever seen.

There are other examples of this, where a project may have started out with good intentions but was scaled back and scaled back some more to the point that it ended up being little more than an upscaled re-release. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning springs to mind as an example from just last year.

Remakes are an opportunity to go back to the drawing board, fix issues, update a title, and bring it into the modern world. Too many “remakes” fail to address issues with the original version of the game. We could even point to Mass Effect: Legendary Edition’s refusal to address criticism of the ending of Mass Effect 3 as yet another example of a missed opportunity.

Number 8: The “release now, fix later” business model.

This isn’t the first time I’ve criticised the “release now, fix later” approach taken by too many modern games – and it likely won’t be the last! Also known as “live services,” games that go down this route almost always underperform and draw criticism, and they absolutely deserve it. The addition of internet connectivity to home consoles has meant that games companies have taken a “good enough” approach to games, releasing them before they’re ready with the intention to patch out bugs, add more content, and so on at a later time.

Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most recent and most egregious examples of this phenomenon, being released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in a state so appallingly bad that many considered it “unplayable.” But there are hundreds of other examples going back to the early part of the last decade. Fortunately, out of all the entries on this list, this is the one that shows at least some signs of going away!

The fundamental flaw in this approach, of course, is that games with potential end up having launches that are mediocre at best, and when they naturally underperform due to bad reviews and word-of-mouth, companies panic! Planned updates are scrapped to avoid pumping more money into a failed product, and a game that could have been decent ends up being forgotten.

For every No Man’s Sky that manages to claw its way to success, there are a dozen Anthems or Mass Effect: Andromedas which fail. Time will tell if Cyberpunk 2077 can rebuild itself and its reputation, but its an uphill struggle – and a totally unnecessary one; a self-inflicted wound. If publishers would just wait and delay clearly-unfinished games instead of forcing them to meet arbitrary deadlines, gaming would be a much more enjoyable hobby. Remember, everyone: NO PRE-ORDERS!

Number 9: Forcing games to be multiplayer and/or scrapping single-player modes.

Some games are built from the ground up with multiplayer in mind – but many others are not, and have multiplayer modes tacked on for no reason. The Last Of Us had an unnecessary multiplayer mode, as did Mass Effect 3. Did you even know that, or notice those modes when you booted up those story-focused games?

Some games and even whole genres are just not well-suited to multiplayer. And others that are still have the potential to see single-player stories too. Many gamers associate the first-person shooter genre with multiplayer, and it’s true that multiplayer games work well in the first-person shooter space. But so do single-player titles, and aside from 2016’s Doom and the newer Wolfenstein titles, I can’t think of many new single-player first-person shooters, or even shooters with single-player modes that felt anything other than tacked-on.

Anthem is one of the biggest failures of the last few years, despite BioWare wanting it to be the video game equivalent of Bob Dylan. But if Anthem hadn’t been multiplayer and had instead maintained BioWare’s usual single-player focus, who knows what it could have been. There was potential in its Iron Man-esque flying suits, but that potential was wasted on a mediocre-at-best multiplayer shooter.

I started playing games before the internet, when “multiplayer” meant buying a second controller and plugging it into the console’s only other available port! So I know I’m biased because of that. But just a few short years ago it felt as though there were many more single-player titles, and fewer games that felt as though multiplayer modes had been artificially forced in. In the wake of huge financial successes such as Grand Theft Auto V, Fortnite, and the like, publishers see multiplayer as a cash cow – but I wish they didn’t!

Number 10: Early access.

How many times have you been excited to see that a game you’ve been waiting for is finally available to buy… only to see the two most awful words in the entire gaming lexicon: “Early Access?” Early access billed itself as a way for indie developers to get feedback on their games before going ahead with a full release, and I want to be clear on this point: I don’t begrudge indie games using it for that purpose. Indies get a pass!

But recently there’s been a trend for huge game studios to use early access as free labour; a cheap replacement for paying the wages of a quality assurance department. When I worked for a large games company in the past, I knew a number of QA testers, and the job is not an easy one. It certainly isn’t one that studios should be pushing off onto players, yet that’s exactly what a number of them have been doing. Early access, if it exists at all, should be a way for small studios to hone and polish their game, and maybe add fan-requested extras, not for big companies to save money on testers.

Then there are the perpetual early access games. You know the ones: they entered early access in 2015 and are still there today. Platforms like Steam which offer early access need to set time limits, because unfortunately some games are just taking the piss. If your game has been out since 2015, then it’s out. It’s not in early access, you’ve released it.

Unlike most of the entries on this list, early access started out with genuinely good intentions. When used appropriately by indie developers, it’s fine and I don’t have any issue with it. But big companies should know better, and games that enter early access and never leave should be booted out!

Bonus: Online harassment.

Though this problem afflicts the entire internet regardless of where you go, it’s significant in the gaming realm. Developers, publishers, even individual employees of games studios can find themselves subjected to campaigns of online harassment by so-called “fans” who’ve decided to take issue with something in a recent title.

Let’s be clear: there is never any excuse for this. No game, no matter how bad it is, is worth harassing someone over. It’s possible to criticise games and their companies in a constructive way, or at least in a way that doesn’t get personal. There’s never any need to go after a developer personally, and especially not to send someone death threats.

We’ve seen this happen when games are delayed. We’ve seen it happen when games release too early in a broken state. In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, we’ve seen both. Toxic people will always find a reason to be toxic, unfortunately, and in many ways the anonymity of the internet has brought out the worst in human nature.

No developer or anyone who works in the games industry deserves to be threatened or harassed. It’s awful, it needs to stop, and the petty, toxic people who engage in this scummy activity do not deserve to be called “fans.”

So that’s it. Ten of my pet peeves with modern gaming.

This was a rant, but it was just for fun so I hope you don’t mind! There are some truly annoying things – and some truly annoying people – involved in gaming in 2021, and as much fun as playing games can be, it can be a frustrating experience as well. Some of these things are fads – short-term trends that will evaporate as the industry moves on. But others, like the move away from single-player games toward ongoing multiplayer experiences, seem like they’re here to stay.

Gaming has changed an awful lot since I first picked up a control pad. And it will continue to evolve and adapt – the games industry may be unrecognisable in fifteen or twenty years’ time! We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed for positive changes to come.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer, publisher, and/or studio. Some stock images courtesy of pixabay. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The odd criticism of Six Days In Fallujah

This article discusses the Iraq War and the Second Battle of Fallujah and may be uncomfortable for some readers.

One of the bloodiest and most controversial battles of the Iraq War was the Second Battle of Fallujah, which took place in November 2004. The battle saw coalition forces – most of whom were American, but there were a number of Iraqi and British troops who took part as well – capture the city from al-Qaeda and other insurgent forces. The Iraq War is controversial and its history complicated, and I’m simplifying the events of the battle and the war to avoid making this article about a video game too long. Suffice to say that even now, eighteen years since the United States led a coalition to defeat Saddam Hussein, and more than sixteen years since the Battle of Fallujah, the events are controversial, disputed, and the consequences of military action are still being felt in Iraq, the wider Middle East, and indeed the whole world.

Six Days In Fallujah is a video game depicting the battle from the American side, and when it was initially in development in the late 2000s it became incredibly controversial in the United States, with politicians and Iraq War veterans’ groups expressing opposition and disgust. The idea of recreating for fun any aspect of one of the most divisive conflicts of the last few decades was considered obscene, and the idea of encouraging gamers to play through a battle that took place, at that time, a mere five years earlier was too much for many people to countenance.

After the controversy boiled over and saw media personalities and politicians get involved in 2009, Six Days In Fallujah disappeared, and by 2010 or 2011 the project was effectively shelved. The critics moved on, the developers moved on, and that appeared to be the end of the matter.

Last month, however, there came the announcement from a studio called Highwire Games – which is said to consist of developers who worked on games in the Halo and Destiny franchises at Bungie – that Six Days In Fallujah was back. The game is now scheduled for a late 2021 release date, and plans to retain the original focus that was the cause of such controversy a decade ago. Cue outrage from the expected sources.

What took me by surprise was not the strength of feeling expressed by some veterans of the battle, nor the criticism by largely self-serving politicians. That was to be expected, and the announcement of Six Days In Fallujah went out of its way to highlight how Highwire Games has worked with veterans in particular – clearly anticipating this kind of reaction and trying to pre-empt some of the criticism. Instead what genuinely surprised me was the reaction from some games industry insiders and commentators, who appear to be taking an equally aggressive stance in opposition to Six Days In Fallujah.

Politicians, particularly those to the right-of-centre, have long campaigned against video gaming as a hobby. Initially games were derided as being wastes of time or childish, but some time in the 1990s the tactic switched to accusing games of inspiring or encouraging violence; equating in-game actions with real-world events. Numerous studies have looked into this issue, by the way, and found it to be without merit. But we’re off-topic.

Advocates of video gaming as a hobby – in which category I must include myself, both as someone who used to work in the industry and as an independent media critic who frequently discusses gaming – have long tried to push back against this narrative and these attacks. “Video games can be art” is a frequently heard refrain from those of us who support the idea of interactive media having merit that extends beyond simple entertainment, and there are many games to which I would direct an opponent to see for themselves that games can be just as valid as works of cinema and literature.

To see folks I would consider allies in the fight for gaming in general to be taken more seriously calling out Six Days In Fallujah because of its controversial subject matter was disappointing. Art, particularly art that deals with controversial current and historical events, can be difficult and challenging for its audience – and it’s meant to be. A painting, photograph, novel, or film depicting something like war is sometimes going to challenge our preconceptions and ask us to consider different points of view. That’s what makes art of this kind worthwhile. It’s what makes everything from war photography to protest songs to the entire genre of war in cinema incredibly important.

Documentaries and news reports only cover events in one way. The way we as a society come to understand events is partly factual but also is, in part, informed by the art those events inspire. The First World War is covered very well in history textbooks and newsreels produced at the time, but another side of the conflict – a more intimate, personal side – is seen in the poetry of people like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. The poems that they wrote about their wartime experiences were not pure depictions of fact, they were written to both inform and entertain – and perhaps to inform through entertainment.

If we relegate the Iraq War to contemporary news broadcasts and documentaries by the likes of Michael Moore we will miss something important, and so will future generations who want to look back and understand what happened. There are many works of fiction and non-fiction which attempt to show the big picture of what happened in Iraq, from the lies about “weapons of mass destruction” through to the use of banned weapons. Those works absolutely need to exist. But in a way, so does Six Days In Fallujah. It aims to depict, in as realistic a manner as game engines in 2021 will allow, one of America’s most controversial battles of recent decades – an event which will be seen in future, perhaps, as one of the American military’s darkest hours of the entire 21st Century due to their alleged use of illegal white phosphorus.

Getting as many perspectives as possible across as broad an array of media as possible about such an important event seems worthwhile, at least to me. Six Days In Fallujah may ultimately turn out to depict the event poorly, or be a game plagued by technical issues. It might be flat-out crap. But it really does surprise me to hear serious commentators and critics suggest that it shouldn’t be made at all, perhaps because of their own biases and preconceptions about the war and the game’s possible depiction of it.

There is value in art, and if video games are to ever be taken seriously as artistic expression, we need to make sure we allow difficult and challenging works of art to exist in the medium. That doesn’t mean we support them or the messages they want to convey, but rather that we should wait and judge them on merit when they’ve been made. As I said, Six Days In Fallujah may be a dud; an easily-forgotten piece of fluff not worth the energy of all this controversy. But maybe it will be a significant work that aids our understanding of the history of this battle, and the entire Iraq War.

It feels odd, as someone who lived through the Iraq War and all its controversy, to be considering it as an historical event, especially considering its continued relevance. I actually attended a huge anti-war march in London that took place a few weeks before British forces joined the US-led coalition and attacked Iraq. But the beginning of the Iraq War is now almost two decades in the past, and even as the world struggles with the aftermath of those events, we need to create works like Six Days In Fallujah if we’re ever to come to terms with what happened and begin to understand it. We also need to consider future generations – are we leaving them enough information and enough art to understand the mistakes our leaders made in 2003? If we don’t leave that legacy, we risk a future George W. Bush or Tony Blair making the same kind of mistake. I don’t know if Six Days In Fallujah will even be relevant to the conversation, but it’s incredibly important that we find out.

Six Days In Fallujah is the copyright of Highwire Games and Victura. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.