Will Next Gen kill creativity?

The past years have been good for real-time 3D. The technology has become more accessible and more powerful. This has allowed many people to experiment with the medium, which lead to interesting experiences and stimulated creativity throughout the games industry.

The Next Generation of hardware threatens to put an end to this.

Why? Because rather than making the technology easier to use for normal people in small numbers, Next Gen makes it easier for the machines to crunch larger amounts of numbers, faster. So the humans need to keep up.
I’m not a fan of the current aesthetic per se but the results are impressive so far. It’s not just a matter of more polygons, but also simply of more stuff (large quantities of objects that are all different) and extreme polish. Everything is shiny in Next Gen…


And while all of this may not exactly be beautiful, it does put the bar a lot higher for everybody else. There is absolutely no way that an independent game developer can create anything even remotely next gen. They just don’t have the man power, money or time for this. As result they will be -and are- returning to, or sticking with, old technology. 2D Scrolling games are already making a come-back. Not to mention all the other retro-inclinations and -fads.

Some of these might be interesting in creative terms in and of themselves. But retro is not exactly where you want the avant garde to be!… The level of polish that a big company can achieve with next gen hardware turns the medium of realtime 3D into something that is only accessible for the rich and conservative. And that’s a shame. Not just for a wasted technology but also for the games industry itself which will bleed to death without lively experimentation.

8 thoughts on “Will Next Gen kill creativity?”

  1. I wasn’t referring to publishing on next gen consoles. But to experimentation in real-time 3D on a level where it can compete. Flow does the typical smart thing that indies do: avoid competing altogether and work with a different type of aesthetic. But it doesn’t really go very far in exploring the new potential of immersion, sensuality and interaction that the new hardware seems to offer. Flow is not much more than a 2D game with flipping characters, and hardly innovative at that (Paper Mario, Parappa the Rapper). And however great they are in their own right, experiments in 2D are only marginally useful in 3D. There’s a whole new world out there. But it’s a new world for the rich and conservative, despite its pressing need for experimentation and research.

  2. Thank you for the link -and the links on that page-, Andrew.

    I wouldn’t want what I said to be read as a fatalistic sigh about an industry gone hopelessly wrong, though. I think it is fabulous that the engineers have succeeded to make the technology really nice for the machines. Now they need to take the next step -an inevitable one, if the industry is going to survive- which is to make the technology equally nice for humans!

    To see advancement in the content of games, people who know about content need to be able to put that content into the technology. This requires a new generation of tools for programming, designing and authoring games. When these tools are created, they will also be used by small teams and individuals, which will automatically lead to a vibrant eco-system.

  3. Thank you. Yes, when Auriea pointed me to that article earlier, the title alone already made my blood boil. I had written a post in response but I have only published it now (I make a point of not posting impulsively 😉 ).
    Here it is.

  4. Hi Michael,
    Saw this post tonight and it made me think of you guys at tale-of-tales, as well as making me relieved to know that at least creativity isn’t dead everywhere… :)
    The making of Mermaids

Comments are closed.