The Banality of Originality

  • There's no such thing as an original videogame. That's right, no game is original because by design originality is born out of taking known elements and fusing them together in unique ways. These aren't my words exactly, these are the words of the late social engineer Jacque Fresco-modified by me slightly to bring context to the discussion of the concept of videogame originality. Whether you agree with these words or not, there are many examples out there of new games being compared to older titles.

    Take Kena: Bridge of Spirits for example, a visually stunning game featuring a female protagonist in a fantastical world dazzling with vibrant colors. Yet critics point out that Kena's platforming resembles the Uncharted series when our heroine bounds between ledges jutting out of walls and cliff-faces. Then you've got Horizon: Zero Dawn butting its influence in because Bridge of Spirits is a narrative-driven experience lead by a female protagonist. Then if these comparisons weren't enough, many see Kena as Pixar-like in terms of animation quality, sorta suggesting the elegance of the game is in-line with cinematic-appeal, that draws away its status as a game to which of course it is.

    Kena is an important case study because while it so eloquently and artfully carries itself strongly, it is held aloft thanks to all these comparisons-it doesn't help that the world seems bereft of interesting personalities, but then SONY's PS exclusives have a knack for being way too serious, but that's besides the point of this article.

    In a medium that's so obsessed with technological advances and pushing itself forward, the continued and unrelenting comparisons between the new hot property and its forebears only hinders the new game's spotlight, although it can help those not in the know about what the game feels and looks like relative to something that is closely identifiable to it.

    This isn't to say there aren't some great feats or giant leaps for videogame-kind. The Nintendo Wii gave gamers a way to get physically active whilst playing games with Nintendo's new gimmick becoming astoundingly and stupidly successful because now the elderly can get in on videogames and the exercise enthusiasts were given a serious alternative to using the gym courtesy of the likes of Wii Sports and Wii Fit. Portable gaming has granted us the ability to take games wherever we pleased and has seen its own evolution from the original Gameboy to the Nintendo DS, PSP and now Nintendo once again innovates by bridging the gap between console and portable with Nintendo Switch. All this shows that new experiences can be given to players and that the videogame industry still shows that it is booming with ideas.

    There is an argument to be made that the exemplars of videogame genres like your Dark Souls, your Fortnites, your Breath of the Wilds and your Final Fantasy VIIs can supersede comparisons because they are the measuring sticks, but even they have been inspired by other pieces of fiction or by their contemporaries.

    What I am getting at here is that people saying that something is an original seems less to do with something being completely new, but something that stands as a work defined by its individual state of being-as in one game with a title on a shelf that doesn't share its name with another title on that shelf. So in essence originality boils down to a game with a different name than all the others more than anything else it would seem.

    I think what gamers really want is more of the same as well generally speaking. People love certain videogames because the inherent qualities within them, remind them of something else that gave them good feelings. I personally play all and enjoy all WWE games because I loved the TV product and I enjoyed the TV product because I think I have a gene that positively reacts to professional wrestling.

    But forget all the pretentious science stuff here, my point is our enjoyments for everything come from somewhere-and thus our concept of videogame originality is based on what we haven't yet experienced rather than something that truly is new. Videogames give us plenty to love and enjoy and they make us feel great and put us into the shoes of power with the controllers in our hands like nothing ever has before. I get it, the last point contradicts my argument here, but even the activeness of videogames comes from another source and is combined by the electronic brunt of Television.

    So with all this said, videogames nor the consoles that run them are wholly original because at their core they need electricity run them and all the circuitry to make them work, but there is plentiful breathing space for players to experience new things. With all the new ways to play, technological advances and a myriad of uncanny ideas out there-the videogame industry is still healthy and strong even if they can't truly be original.