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The Evolution of Game Mechanics

Game mechanics have undergone somewhat of a renaissance over the past decade.  It’s almost crazy to think that a game like Dino Crisis 2 was once classified as a third-person shooter. Games have always been defined by their mechanics; it’s what determines their genre. Fifteen years ago there was no separation between shooters, but now we have first-person shooters, third-person shooters, over-the-shoulder shooters and rail shooters. The scope for defining games has increased dramatically in recent years due to the extensive evolution of game mechanics.

First, let’s look at shooters. Back in the Doom days, you couldn’t strafe (I’ll give the youngsters this sentence to go find their socks that just flew off) and your gun was at a fixed position and you couldn’t even aim up or down. You also held enough weapons to kit out a small army and your progression through the game was akin to hunting for keys and defeating large numbers of enemies. Compare this to a modern shooter where you can strafe, your weapons are limited far more severely and you progress through the game as the narrative unfolds. Platformers are another good example, thinking back to the Sonic era where everything was about speedy progression though controlled levels. Now when you look at a game like Ratchet and Clank, the leap forward between the two is astounding when you consider that they classified under the same genre.

With the ever increasing power of technology to fuel our games it is only natural that our mechanics evolve and change with that. The titles that laid the ground work for our current games are still alive and kicking in our various online markets and it’s great to see their influence lasting. The question I have is what is next for gaming? What is going to be the next Resident Evil 4 or Halo to our current form of accepted mechanics? And more importantly, how far away are they? It’s safe to say motion controls will never be a sufficient replacement for the traditional method that has made games what they are. Seamlessly integrating them with the traditional control pad has been tried, even if it was a complete failure.


We used to play games with the one on the left...

The impact of certain games over the past decade is simply incredible. Whether you like them or not, you cannot deny the influence of games like Resident Evil 4, Halo or Grand Theft Auto 3 had on the gaming industry. All of them came out of nowhere and showed everyone a completely new (and better) way of doing what previous games had done. Their effects are still felt heavily today and there hasn’t been any game this generation that has had the impact of those mentioned; most of them are still trying to recreate what was done years ago by those very titles.

With industry experts predicting the next run of consoles to be announced over the next two years, it seems as if we might have to wait for them in order to deliver the kinds of advancements that have come before it. This generation hasn’t delivered anything like the previous as far as advancing mechanics goes, but that’s not to say we haven’t seen our fair share of awesome games, because we have. However, God only knows the kind of hardware the next console generation will be packing. And taking into account what was accomplished in the days of the PS2 and Xbox, developers must have something in mind to further enhance the way we play our games over the next decade.


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