Is Video Game Creativity Dead?

Some of the statements I made in my Giant Bomb interview continue to haunt me. Here, writer Cal.L examines my assertion that the industry is stagnating.

I like this article—not just because the author agrees with me and provides evidence to bolster my point, but because it gives a shout-out to indie games. I spoke with Patrick Klepek at PAX on Saturday, after speaking at my panel and touring the main expo hall floor. Everything I had seen up until that point confirmed my worst fears about the industry churning out formulaic shooters and endless sequels. There wasn't a single game I wanted to demo. Even my usual thirst for swag died in the face of so much sameness. I felt…bored. And it was directly from this experience that I went to chat with Patrick. I hadn't yet seen the Indie Games MegaBooth. If I had, my interview would have gone differently.

I want to be clear that I stand by my claim about the industry being trapped in stale thinking. I'm not taking it back. But I'll qualify that statement by noting that indie games are pushing innovation in ways that big-budget projects can't and aren't. Gone Home, That Dragon Cancer, Unfinished Swan, Thomas Was Alone, Kentucky Route Zero, and Papers, Please are all small titles with a big impact. The lonely poetry of KRZ  is exactly the sort of game I told Patrick I've been missing. Gone Home offers a fresh narrative perspective. Papers, Please will make you question your ethics. All of these games are pushing the creative boundaries of the industry. They are redefining what the medium can express and how it can make people feel. 

Maybe it's too much to ask that blockbuster games innovate. Maybe it's enough that they provide a familiar and reliable experience. I hate to give up on AAA titles, though. I would love to see more big-name projects borrow energy from their indie counterparts and try something besides a proven formula. I would love to see them take some major risks. I would love to see some unusual gameplay mechanics, at the very least. Until then, I'll keep funding Kickstarter projects and supporting independent studios.