5 Things The Gaming Industry Will Never Fix (And Why)

5 Things The Gaming Industry Will Never Fix (And Why)

As gamers, playing games is our second-most favorite hobby. Our most favorite is, of course, complaining about games.

But here are five much bitched-about things that we might as well retire from the complaint list, because as you'll see, they're not getting fixed. Ever.

Movie Tie-In Games

Hey, guys, Jim Cameron showed up at E3! And to announce a game, no less! It's the tie-in for his upcoming film Avatar, and he says they're sparing no expense to make sure the game is every bit the revolutionary experience the film will be! Holy shit, finally we've got a top-notch film maker to show gaming how it's fucking done.

Oh, hey, they've released screen shots!

Huh. That... sure is an armored space marine. Shooting a machine gun. Alongside a mech.

You know what? Fuck this. We've been burned too many times. It's our fault for getting all worked up when the trailer for that Terminator: Salvation game hit, thinking it looked like a cooler Gears of War. Then we find out the finished game is so short that it's over in less time than it takes to watch the last two movies, yet still costs the full $60.

"You're the only hope for manki--oh, wait. The war's over. Let's go get some lunch."

They've Been Trying Since...

The first movie-licensed game was pooped onto shelves almost exactly 27 years ago, when Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600 emerged in May of 1982. And man, did it ever set the tone.

It had no connection to the film other than that the main character seemed to have some hat-shaped pixels on his head. Raiders was almost impossible to beat thanks to a series of utterly illogical and random puzzles. And if you did beat it, the game seemed to get confused, displaying a victory screen that showed Indy standing on a scissor lift under a levitating ark.

Did we mention this is the same thing you saw if you lost?

Steven Spielberg was so impressed he actually got the same designer working on the infamous ET game later that year. And when we say "infamous" we mean "the game that almost single-handedly killed the game industry."

Why we're losing hope:

As bad as you think these games are, trust us, they're worse. Here's Metacritic's list of all XBox 360 games, listed from best to worst-reviewed. In the top 100 games, you find exactly one movie or TV licensed game: Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. And it's all the way down at #90.

Now scroll to the veeeery bottom of the list, to the tormented seventh circle of video game Hell. In the bottom 100 shittiest games, you find 16 movie or TV licenses.

So the situation ain't getting any better. And that's insane, because they've seen that a good game can not only make money, but can in fact make more freaking money than the movie. The same year the shitty Indiana Jones game came out, they made an arcade game tie-in for the movie Tron. It out-grossed the film, and it did it one freaking quarter at a time.

The N64 game version of Goldeneye sold 8 million copies. That's around $300 million in revenue, triple what the film grossed in the US.

The secret is dick shots


Will Never Get Fixed Because...

Look at the exceptions for a moment. Goldeneye was one of the best games ever made. The first Godfather game was excellent, and there are rumors that the upcoming Ghostbusters game isn't terrible. So what do all of those games have in common?

Easy: They weren't released alongside the movie.

Goldeneye came out about two years after the film. The others came decades later. Unlike the shit games, these weren't released as tie-in merchandise meant to ride the coattails the film. These games were made knowing they would have to stand on their own. Why not make every game with that mindset? Why put a multi-million dollar game in the same category as this:

That's what happened with the ET game, they only gave the development team six weeks to make it, because in their eyes it was just an interactive ad for the movie. An understandable mistake in 1982. But 27 years later?

It's almost like studios and film makers both have a dismissive, almost spiteful attitude toward games. Even today, when revenues of that industry rival their own. It's almost like they've got a high school "jocks vs nerds" mindset. Why?

Well, we think we have a theory...

Blowing Shit Up

On the same stage where James Cameron unveiled Avatar, Microsoft unveiled actual gameplay of Modern Warfare 2. The one level they chose to show off takes place on a military air base, full of grounded fighter jets that explode beautifully every time they're hit with a stray round.

Why did they pick that one level? Why did the guys showing off Splinter Cell: Conviction promise "fully destructible" buildings? Because blowing shit up is cool. Simple fact. World War 2 veterans will tell you that there is nothing more ball-quakingly exciting than dropping bombs onto an enemy factory and watching the entire thing erupt in a cloud of smoke, rubble and dismembered Nazis. This is like 90% of why we still have wars.

Gamers, too, love blowing things up, as everyone who has spent half an afternoon parking 30 cop cars next to each other in GTA IV, before taking careful aim with a rocket launcher, will attest to.

But no matter how many megatons of explosives you detonate, the glass windows on the surrounding buildings remain curiously, and irritatingly, intact.

"Fully destructible?" Bullshit. We've been promised that before.

They've Been Trying Since...

Gun Fight, in 1975. You controlled a Stetsoned cowboy and took potshots at a similarly stereotypical cowboy on the other side of the screen. It had these little cacti in the middle of the screen which your bullets could merrily dismember.

Hey, it's Indiana Jones

Why We're Losing Hope:

You ever watch an action-packed trailer for a movie, then buy a ticket only to find out that the only action in the movie was the two minutes you saw in the trailer? (see: Jarhead) Well game makers have started doing that with destructible environments. Games like Black and Killzone 2 gave us jaw-dropping trailers that made it look like you could fuck shit up with every squeeze of the trigger...

And then you buy the game and realize that it rations out specific points you're allowed to destroy, while the amount of damage you do to other scenery is about what a small child could do with a rubber mallet.

They know we want it--that's why they make sure we see it in the preview materials (as Microsoft did up there). But a game that builds destructibility into every surface has joined world peace on the list of mankind's noble yet unattainable dreams.

Will never get fixed because...

When we were 10 and dreamed about how badass the future generations of consoles would be, we all kind of assumed that some day they'd reach a point where the hardware was so mind-bogglingly powerful it could handle anything. A racing game where you can drive across the USA, a shooter where all of the bodies of your enemies stay behind and you can pile them 500-high, buildings where every single brick can be individually separated from its brothers.

It doesn't work that way. As the hardware gets more powerful they always think of other things they'd rather do with it. And of course we're not really asking them to program any possible piece of scenery to destruct, but all of it, at the same time. Because that's what we're going to do; forget about the fucking zombies and just destroy the entire goddamned town with grenades.

Wait I think there's still an unbroken window in the capitol

Hardware will always be a limitation; even when games are running off a sentient cloud network that can render Jurassic Park-quality graphics in a microsecond, they'll still only give us enough destructibility to make the trailer look awesome.

Cut Scenes

Pac-Man just had to eat those dots, and that was that.

No explanation. If you needed to fill in a backstory, you could use your imagination. We personally liked to think that Pac-Man was a sentient, partially-eaten lemon meringue pie. The four ghosts were the four elemental spirits of Air, Earth, Fire and Water. The white dots were obviously globs of semen.

Back in those days, games were content to just be games, not a storytelling medium.

But no longer. Today pretty much every game feels the need to make you stop playing every few minutes so you can watch the characters give you stilted plot exposition.

"...and when I woke up, I was wearing this."

We don't have anything against storytelling, mind you. But there are two big problems with cut scenes: there are too many of them and the quality tends to fall somewhere between Sci-Fi original movies and elementary school plays.

They've been trying since...

1987's Maniac Mansion was the first game to actually stop gameplay to advance the plot with a "cut scene"--a term that was coined by that game's developers. That was actually a Lucasfilm game, so we blame George Lucas for every terrible cut scene we've ever watched since.

If the dialog is retarded, George Lucas will make it.

Why We're Losing Hope:

We're looking at you Konami, and your Metal Gear Solids. The series was already something of a joke when it came to cut scenes--the second installment featured one weighing in at around half an hour. So what did Konami decide to do with Metal Gear Solid 4? Make us sit through nine and a half hours of cut scenes.

"And now I shall explain the master plan behind the virus. I hope you made a pot of fucking coffee."

Will Never Get Fixed Because...

The thing is, games like Bioshock and most Valve titles have shown you can do scripted scenes without stopping the game and yanking control away from the player. So why in the hell are they taking this wonderful new art form (video games) and trying to evolve it into an art form we already had (movies)? Why do game makers want to be film makers?

Oh, right.

Fine, so that explains the quantity of cutscenes. But what about the quality?

Well, they either can't or won't spend money on actors. Grand Theft Auto IV had decent cut scenes, but that game cost $100 million motherfucking dollars to make. And even then, their voice talent complained to anyone who would listen that they were basically paid fast food wages. The game made around half a billion dollars in revenue, and not a penny of residuals went to the voice actors. And keep in mind, GTA IV had probably more voice work than any game in history.

Games will forever be choosing between bargain basement talent, or stars giving begrudging, drunken performances. Or you can get Billy Dee Williams in Command and Conquer 3, which falls somewhere in the sweet spot of that Venn diagram.

"I am going to act the FUCK out of this cut scene! THE FUUUUUUUCK!!!"


So, you're a genetically modified super soldier, and you work security for some shady character or other. You don't ask too many questions. Suddenly, just minutes before you're scheduled for a coffee break, you feel a bullet thunk into your head.

Being a super soldier and existing in a video game, you survive this initial assault. Now what do you do? Duck? Hide? Run away? If you're doing your job, your reaction will include alerting some of your co-workers. If, on the other hand, you stand still and allow the gunman to carefully re-aim and shoot you several more times, congratulations. You're a bad guy in the Crysis universe.

"I swear if that guy shoots me a sixth time I'm totally going to say something."

To be fair, some gamers say they actually don't want the bad guys to go cowering behind a crate every time there's gunfire, Killzone 2-style. That can actually be annoying. That's why they like zombie games, where the enemies are just mindless shambling targets to absorb our nine-millimeter wrath.

Fine, but then that same gamer finds himself having to depend on that A.I., in the form of the hair-pulling frustratathon known as teammate A.I. Let's enjoy this clip of an A.I.-controlled player in MLB 2K9, trying to pick up a routine fly ball and doing several somersaults instead:

They've Been Trying Since...

Nineteen fifty-fucking-two. The game was OXO, the very first digital game. It pitted the player against a computer A.I. in a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. Fifty-seven years ago.

Teammate A.I. goes back to A Boy and His Blob, on the Nintendo Entertainment System (1989). You controlled a boy, who had an A.I.-driven blob sidekick. While hardly the most independent thinker, this is still the earliest example of a player being able to give instructions to a CPU teammate, and the A.I. being capable enough to work out what it's supposed to do.


It was a tantalizing glimpse into the future. Hell, with the advances in technology, in a couple of decades we'd have a digital best friend who could engage us in stimulating debate and comfort us when we were troubled!

Fast forward 20 years...

Why we're losing hope:

Her name is Sheva Alomar. The game is Resident Evil 5. And unless you're playing on the "just let me win, damn it!" difficulty setting, she's the A.I. partner who is about to make your life a living hell. Behold as she accidentally rides a conveyor belt right into a blast furnace. Watch as you carefully lay timed mines in front of the giant mutant bat monster, only to have Sheva follow behind you picking the fuckers up and putting them in her pocket.

"Hey, you dropped these."

And that's in one of the best games of the generation, a title that's top-notch in about every other area. Probably no other flaw ruins great games the way this one does.

Will Never Get Fixed Because...

Because it's not a flaw, necessarily. See, Resident Evil 5 doesn't want you to play with A.I. Sheva. They want you to play with a friend, in the co-op mode. Specifically, they want you to play with a friend who you forced to buy a second copy of the game. And Microsoft wants both of you paying monthly subscription fees for XBox Live.

It won't get fixed, because there's more money in not fixing it.


Look, we understand that 80 percent of everything is crap. Movies, songs, etc. And that within that crap is a subsection of crap so spectacularly bad that it defies even the darkest reaches of human imagination.

But very few of the songs/movies/TV shows that get released are broken. You don't go to the theater and see movies where the middle reel is missing, or hear songs where the guy's guitar came unplugged half way through. But you do get that in the world of video games.

They call it shovelware. Cheap and often incomplete/broken games that get dumped onto shelves right alongside the classics.

And the thing is, the gaming industry has even less of an excuse than any other medium. Their entire model is built on licensing the rights to make games on their machine, which in a perfect world would mean they could slam the door on developers that make the gaming equivalent of a bicycle that sets your scrotum on fire.

They've been trying since...

From the day cartridges were invented, console makers have never quite figured out how to feel about other companies making games for their system. When Activision started making games for the Atari 2600 back in the 80s, Atari went to court to stop them.

They failed, and the industry almost drowned under a torrent of third-party shit that flooded the market. When the next generation came along, Nintendo locked access to their machine and invented the Nintendo Seal of Quality, a gold stamp that said each game had gotten the Nintendo's blessing and ostensibly had been checked for quality. Publishers were given limits on how many games they could release.

Well, that seems like a good solution. Now let's fast-forward 20 years...

Why We're Losing Hope:

When you were that 10-year-old kid we mentioned earlier, and you were imagining the kind of games you'd be playing in the magical future of 2009, were you picturing Ninjabread Man?

How about Calvin Tucker's Redneck Jamboree? Or Bikini Samurai Squad?

Or Chicken Shoot!

Will Never Get Fixed Because...

You know how when you're a rock star, all the bad stuff accumulates along with the success? The groupies, the drugs, the hangers-on, the depression. But the more successful you are, the less anybody tries to stop it. As long as the money is coming in, right?

Well, it's a lot like that. The most successful console maker is the one that attracts the most diseased, shovelware shit to its system. And because it's successful, it doesn't mind. Who cares about the millions of new gamers whose first impression of gaming is a $50 piece of frustrating, bug-ridden garbage. We got their money, that's all that counts. The industry is growing, everybody is getting rich and these stories never, ever end in a tragic, self-destructive downfall.


David Wong is the Editor of Cracked.com and the author of the upcoming horror novel John Dies at the End, which is currently banned in 72 countries.

Remember that Nintendo Seal of Quality we mentioned? Turns out that went to shit also: 5 New Games That Prove Nintendo Has Given Up. But there still is hope, as detailed by Swaim in 10 Video Games That Should Be Considered Modern Art.

And visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see what we look at when not tossing the Wii Fit through the nearest window. Fuck that yoga game.

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