Sunday, April 11, 2010

BEDA 11: Left 4 Dead 2 and the Future of Gaming

Man, I really love video games. This is something you know about me if you read this blog. I talk a lot about the Final Fantasy series and wrote an entire entry about my recent discoveries in Pokemon.

Left 4 Dead 2 is currently one of my favorites for a lot of different reasons. But before I get into that, I want to talk about what this game and games like it mean for the future of video games.

The first Left 4 Dead was the first game of its kind that I had ever seen. Upon starting the game, you're presented with a lot of different options, most of which are better used on Xbox live, which I didn't have at the time. There was the scavenge option, the versus option, and the campaign, but there didn't seem to be any actual "game" game. No main story line. Well there was, sort of. You could play the game through from the first campaign to the last, but the menu screen actually made it a point to say "off-line" campaign, like I was doing something wrong. Also, I was able to jump into any point in the game, regardless of my earlier progress (or lack thereof) and that didn't seem quite right to me either.
The unique set-up of this game is indicitive of two things that are happening in the video game world.
1. The removal of really bullshit things.
It's not so important anymore in video games to really struggle with impossible tasks and time-consuming events that can be screwed up at the last second and reset. Instead, enjoyment is becoming the major focus, and the challenges more skill based and less insanely frustrating. Between L4D2 and the newest Final Fantasy, I think this really stands out. Right off the bat in L4D2 you can explore all options of the game. All levels are immediately open. And why not? It's a first person shooter that is completely devoid of plot. The challenges lie in the actual killing of zombies, not getting to the next level, and the gameplay reflects this.
2. Everyone has the internet now.
L4D2, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, is a game that is made explicitly to be played online with your friends. L4D2's virtual lack of gun variety is one aspect of the game that makes me think developers weren't planning for solo gamers when they designed this title. The choice of weapons is kept simple, as well as the additional items in the game, and the strategy is kept to teamwork. This is also a game that you absolutely can't play by yourself. Even alone you are accompanied by three computer teammates who have to watch your back in case a hunter jumps on your chest and starts ripping you apart. Honestly, I know I wouldn't play this game if I weren't able to play it with my friends back home, talking on my headset like the enormous nerd that I am, strategizing zombie death plots and scrambling for gas cans. More than half the fun comes from being able to work as a team alongside my friends and utterly destroy our opponents.

L4D2 gets right to the heart of what is fun and awesome about multiplayer games, and I think a lot more titles are going to start coming out along those lines. None of the extra frilly crap that comes with so many games. Just the guts of it, cut away from the normal structure, and left to the players to fully realize its potential.

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