Are we playing the same games over and over again?

Playing video games

“Pokemon X/Y is the exact same game we’ve been playing since 1996,” writes Stephen Hershey on Kill Screen. “And that’s okay,” he adds. With this latest release of what is likely to be yet another addictive game, one cannot help but have this nagging feeling that game developers are, after all, recycling the same concept over and over.

“At its core, I might as well be reviewing a game from 1996,” he writes. “X/Y uses the same structure as its predecessors, down to the same JRPG battle tactics, sound bytes, cave explorations, Team Whatever surmounting, and even monster cries. Charmingly, a Pikachu still emits 8-bit gargles.”

True enough, if you do a cursory review of the games you have on your computer, console, smartphone or tablet, you might find familiar elements across the different game titles you’re playing. Let’s focus on casual games for now. If you’re a fan of the Temple Run series, you would probably find the game play on Subway Surfers familiar. How about Agent Dash? Check. What about Minion Rush (which my kids love, by the way)? Similar gameplay elements are also there. There’s an endless list of the so-called endless running games on App Advice that you probably won’t run out of these runners anytime soon.

Games that share gameplay elements are often subjected to comparisons. Subway Surfers, for instance, is often compared with Temple Run in terms of gameplay, challenges, characters and other features. I would guess that you might be able to do a similar comparison across other titles and series that share the same basic concept. But of course, it’s not always an apples-to-apples comparison, as some games are deemed better than others, even if they are mostly cloning the concept.

For some gamers, it’s the “aggressive sense of nostalgia” that keeps us hooked on playing, as Stephen writes. Whether you’re a fan of racing games, first-person shooters, RPGs, sandbox, platform or other games, you would still keep coming back to similar kinds of games years later. In my case, I don’t have much time and patience for MMORPGs, but give me a good racing game and I can take you on any day (or at least I’ll try).

Speaking of racing, this brings to mind Angry Birds and its latest iteration, Angry Birds GO!. Interestingly, GO! eschews the usual bird-flinging action of the original Angry Birds and its countless sequels. Rovio has drastically deviated from that formula, but this deviation from the now-tired pull-release-and-fling physics genre might just spell success for the company. Angry Birds GO! could “knock Nintento ‘s Mario Kart of its perch,” writes Stuart Dredge at The Guardian. And there goes the comparison again.

So to answer our question whether we’re playing the same games over and over again, the answer is a big yes. While we do get updates, upgrades and new variants of the games we love, sharing game major play elements and whatnot, it’s what keeps gamers hooked. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or just killing time at the airport or on the subway with a casual game, it is that sense of familiarity — and nostalgia! — that keeps games interesting, even if game devs give us “8-bit gargles” in an era of 8-core smartphone processors.

Image credit: Playing video games / Shutterstock