This past week, GameSpot published a video,
written and performed by analyst Danny O’Dwyer,
entitled ‘Destiny, Reviews, and Aging Gamers’
discussing what was described as ‘age bias’
among gamers – by way of juxtaposing the mediocre
critical reception of Destiny… against the
earth-shattering commercial success of the
very same title. In the aftermath, a slew
of YouTube commentators concurrently tripped
over themselves agreeing with his fairly mundane
opinionatin’, without exposing it to the requisite
scrutiny they were all to eager, ironically,
to apply to fuckin’ Destiny!
I… felt like his argument was about as authentic
as a piece of complete and utter bullshit
can possibly be. And, like most bullshit…
there was a grain of truth embedded at its
core for ease of digestion.
His stance is fairly straightforward, and
he’s neither the first – nor the most articulate
– spokesman of it, either: ‘Gamers – like
myself – raised in the Roaring ’90s, witnessed
massive qualitative leaps between console
generations.’ In all of five years, we went
from 2D… to 3D Zelda, Metal Gear Solid,
and Mario, while a veritable deluge of piping-fresh
new IPs like Half-Life, Deus Ex and Thief
threw off the bounds of what the medium was
conceivably capable of. And we witnessed this
same engine of innovation shattering genre
boundaries as recently as 2007. As ‘older’
gamers… we have been conditioned to believe
that we are entitled to a ceaseless procession
of innovation. We anticipate the complete
reinvention of the industry with each successive
And in all of these things…? He’s absolutely
It’s the suppositions he makes after this…
where you remember that he works for GameSpot.
‘For the first time in gaming history,’ he
says, ‘The industry has come face to face
with the sobering realities of the law of
diminishing returns.’ Quite literally suggesting
the modern industry is outright incapable
of pushing forward, that the technology itself
– technology which I would hasten to add that
HIS OWN WEBSITE depicted as the second coming
at the PS4 Reveal Event in early 2013 – has,
in fact, fallen prey to the technical exigencies
that visual fidelity and interactivity…
can only be pushed so far.
That younger gamers are more locked into this
fact, because they are either freshly initiated
into the art form and lack context, or have
been conditioned to expect less by the cavalcade
of cliché that has comprised the last six
years of game design.
This, he claims, explains the disparity between
how tepidly Destiny was received… and the
mountain of filthy cash Bobby Kotick is sobbing
himself to sleep into each night while perched
atop of because this game is selling like
a fuckin’ AIDS cure.
Why Danny O’Dwyer believes we should, in fact,
be surprised by a generic first-person-shooter
published by Activision and developed by Bungie
selling like Thriller – in 2014, a year where
even the least distinctive annual iterations
of Call of Duty and Battlefield routinely
print fucking money – is a mystery he strategically
never deigns to address.
But let’s put this ‘law of diminishing returns’
horseshit definitively the fuck to bed, shall
The industry apologentsia have been flappin’
their five chins about the possibility of
diminishing visual returns since the launch
of the Sega fuckin’ Dreamcast, people. And
that is a fact. We had a long way to go then
– and you only need to take one fleeting glance
at even the shittiest CGI in a Hollywood film
to confirm that the industry still has a long
way to go now.
The ‘returns’ of the PS4 and Xbox One have
diminished… by design. Because after Sony
dropped a shitload of money making the exotic,
lumbering seabeast that was the PS3, with
all the needless bells, whistles and nippleclamps
their fanbase were clamoring for? They spent
too much, and made too little. Even the Xbox
360, which was comparatively less expensive,
was sold at a loss, unit-for-unit. Sony and
Microsoft had an unspoken gentlemen’s agreement
that, simply put, they were not about to spend
a shitload of money making these next-gen
consoles. And the PS4, as a result, is the
first Sony console to turn a profit – albeit
a very modest one – on each actual hardware
These systems are out of date because they
were engineered, not to be powerful… but
to be cheap.
Forbes published an article just last week
discussing just how intentionally out-of-date
the PS4 and Xbox One actually are. See, in
case you haven’t walked into an electronics
retailer in the past several months, 4K televisions
are already dipping down to below $500 in
price. Meaning, by the end of 2016, it’s entirely
likely 4K will be the new standard. And yet
two consoles released not THREE YEARS PREVIOUSLY…
will be technically incapable of rendering
a video game at 4K resolution! In fact, while
Microsoft are flat-out fucking lying and claiming
the Xbox One can render at 4K, Sony – in a
rare spasm of honesty – have confided to at
least one journalist that the PS4 may not
even be technically capable of… upscaling
a game to 4K resolution! How’s that for a
long-term console investment?
Now, taken cosmetically, this would appear
to bolster Danny O’Dwyer’s contention about
diminishing returns. After all, who cares
if the consoles were organically or artificially
hobbled, the point is, Kathy Bates took a
sledghammer to their ankles. The Xbox One’s
a cripple. Fuckin’ deal with it!
Well, here’s the thing:
There is perhaps no more inexpensive component
to enhance on a console or on a PC… than
RAM. Prior to the launch of PS4/Xbox One I
argued – and on an article on my website even
correctly predicted – that in an effort to
cut down on cost and amplify the possibility
of large, detailed next-gen game levels – Sony
and Microsoft would focus, not on graphics…
but on Memory. And, with 12 GB apiece, I tend
to believe I was vindicated in that assumption.
It’s the largest leap in memory in home console
history, and I don’t believe that was an accident.
RAM is cheap, and RAM means designers can
craft larger levels with more objects with
heavier scripting and more unique properties…
while retaining that next-gen graphical fidelity.
You know… like the exact kind of levels
we haven’t fucking seen on PS4 and Xbox One!
These are the first consoles in history where
it was technically possible – without loading
zones or other game design sleight of hand
– to craft levels the size, detail and scope
of those found in System Shock 2 or Thief:
The Dark Project… while retaining the visual
detail of the next-gen! A fact that, for me,
makes Eidos Montréal’s abject abortion by
the name of Thief 4 all the more disappointing!
Console Developers in 2014 are now uniquely
capable of crafting titanic, immersive levels
without skimping on visual detail… and what
we get instead…? Is Halo with Hoods. Steampunk
Gears of War. I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Forza.
That isn’t the law of diminishing returns.
That’s purposeful neutering of new IPs to
preserve their commercial viability.
That’s an industry cowering in crippling fear
of the future.
That’s an industry playing it safe… and
training its consumer base to be grateful
What I find personally objectionable about
Danny O’Dwyer of GameSpot’s facile pseudo-argument…?
Is that it excuses an entire industry… for
behavior that even people within said industry
believe is utterly inexcusable.
If it were? Major names – from Hideo Kojima
to Warren Spector – wouldn’t be calling the
entire industry out for failing to innovate…
with superior technology at their disposal!
These are people familiar with the toolset,
and making relevant video games with it!
Diminishing visual returns? We’ve long since
come to expect. But Destiny isn’t shit because
it’s not visually impressive. It’s shit because
it comes out thirteen years after Halo…
and its shooting is about half as fucking
functional! Festering shit selling like hotcakes
is nothing new. The new TMNT film was about
the most ripe turd I’ve ever had the misfortune
to behold, and it sold a fuckload of movie
tickets. The public is an ass. Look at the
people they elect – and re-elect – for confirmation.
If holding a video game to a standard it sets
for itself means I’m old? Then get off my