Swing Copters: Punishingly Difficult, Highly Addictive

The whole internet is abuzz with the news of Swing Copters’ release. The mobile app game, developed by GEARS Studios, has caught the attention of gamers as it is the follow up to the furiously addictive Flappy Bird. As you may recall, Flappy Bird was pulled from release as creator Dong Nguyen stated is was simply ‘too addictive’ to be made available. Following the announcement, piles upon piles of imitation games were released on the Apple App Store and Google Play, and mobile phones with the app installed were selling online from $300 to up to $90,000. Safe to say, the game was popular. So, does Swing Copters live up to the same standards?

We certainly saw that anticipation was high before release. Before the game was even available in app stores, dozens of clones with unimaginative monikers such as ‘SwingCopters’, ‘Copters Swing’ and ‘Piggy Copters’ were suddenly ready for download. The clones were swiftly removed from the Google Play Store soon after the official game’s launch, an encouraging sign that perhaps app stores are now taking the problem of app cloning more seriously. In an ironic twist, indie studio Open Name has opened a case against GEARS, stating that Swing Copters is in fact a clone of their title, Bog Racer. At time of writing, Bog Racer is unavailable for download, possibly because of the cull of Swing Copters clones.

So what of the game itself? This time around, the action focuses on a small… thing, wearing a propeller hat. Your job is to guide it through a perilous path of scaffolding and swinging hammers (one thinks it would just be easier to catch the bus). The gameplay is very similar to Flappy Birds, in that the more obstacles you avoid, the more points you accrue. However, the obstacles are now even harder to avoid, as each tap launches your character either into the left or right of the screen, necessitating frantic tapping to keep it somewhere in the middle. Away from the hammers.

That’s how the game work, but the most important question is, is it fun? I downloaded the game for research purposes, and within five minutes I wanted to throw my phone through the nearest window. At time of writing, I am yet to score a single point. For me, this is a serious strike against the game, but for others, the stupendously steep learning curve is the entire draw for them.

I’m not alone in my views, however. The Atlantic described Swing Copters as ‘abusively difficult’, which is a phrase that fits the game nicely. There’s no tutorial, no graduated difficulty, no easy ‘in’ for someone who would want to get better at the game gradually. For seasoned gamers, this could well be a breath of fresh air in an industry that they feel makes games embarrassingly easy to chase higher sales figures.

Others have levelled rather harsh criticism at the game, saying that it’s an ‘exercise built for monotony’. While I agree that the game itself is rather pointless, it’s not exactly the only pointless game out there on the market. Titles such as Hay Day and Temple Run have the player play on and on, fulfilling certain criteria in order to reach goals that allow the player to go onto the next level of fulfilling criteria, and so on. The only real difference is that Swing Copters offers no goal other than reaching a new high score. In fact, the game is charmingly ‘old school’ in that sense.

In conclusion, then, Swing Copters is something that clearly isn’t to everyone’s tastes. However, it certainly has everybody talking and is arguably a fresh idea in app gaming. Plus, if it has the app stores taking game cloning seriously, that can only be a good thing. If you give it a go, though, I recommend sitting in a padded room. The phone probably will go flying at some point.

Tomb Raider: Rise of the Xbox Exclusive

Gaming fans are no stranger to rabid devotion to their favourite games, but the announcement of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s exclusivity to the Xbox One has shown just how upset they can be when things don’t go their way. Fans of Lara Croft took to social media to voice their displeasure, saying that Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics ‘stole Rise of the Tomb Raider from avid fans everywhere… Hope you go bankrupt.’ Another fan exclaimed that Microsoft ‘ruined everything’. If nothing else, this just goes to show that the Tomb Raider still has a dedicated fan base, 18 years after the franchise’s launch.

The announcement was made at this year’s Gamescom, where those involved waxed lyrical about how this deal was ‘good for gaming’. When asked why the title was exclusive to Microsoft, Darrell Gallagher, Head of Studios at Crystal Dynamics, stated that ‘our friends at Microsoft have always seen the potential in Tomb Raider’ and ‘we believe that this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming.’ Xbox head Phil Spencer added that ‘I think it could help the franchise in the long run.’

Getting behind the florid marketing speak, it’s clear that the deal is a good move for both Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics. The Tomb Raider brand is receiving a huge boost in publicity following the announcement, even if a lot of it is angry fans upset that the game won’t be coming to their chosen system. Microsoft are benefiting as they have now secured a household name brand as an exclusive for their consoles. As the Xbox One has been flagging in sales figures behind the PS4, an exclusive was sorely needed.

The move also means that the Xbox will now have a direct competitor to Sony’s exclusive Uncharted series, games that have cribbed more than a few moves from Ms. Croft herself. When asked about Uncharted, Phil Spencer replied that ‘I’m a big fan of Uncharted, and wish we had an adventure game of that ilk… this is an opportunity.’

When presented with the news, Sony’s Jim Ryan hit back saying that it doesn’t need to buy exclusive rights to third party titles, as it already has a strong range of exclusives and a strong relationship with third party developers.

It’s interesting that the announcement has attracted such attention and backlash, even the above catty comment from Sony who shouldn’t really be feeling threatened by it, thanks to healthy sales figures. Eventually, those involved have had to defend the decision online, and reveal that Rise of the Tomb Raider will only be a timed exclusive for the 2015 holiday season, as Microsoft don’t own the IP for the franchise.

The biggest surprise in this whole situation has to be the amount of popularity the Tomb Raider franchise still has. Given the amount of times the game has been rebooted and reworked at this point (three reboots, at my last count. THREE), the current generation of gamers would be forgiven for not recognising the game as the successor to the 90’s merchandising juggernaut. If nothing else, we’ve seen there’s life in the brand yet. Let’s hope Rise of the Tomb Raider lives up to the hype now…

Fake Viral Sites and Twitter Tantrums: Gaming’s PR Blunders

The gaming world is no stranger to the odd PR mishap, as Nintendo have so ably demonstrated recently. Having declared August Princess Peach month, they asked their Twitter followers to tweet about why they loved Peach, using the hashtag #PeachMonth. It went, well, probably as well as one would expect from Twitter.

Thanks to the internet, the PR plunders of gaming companies are recorded forever and immortalised in gamers’ memories. These incidents can often show just how companies can misunderestimate and misrepresent their audiences, to disastrous effect.

For any PR person looking to connect with their customers on a personal level, social media seems to be the place to go. However, one soon learns that the internet truly is the Wild West of communication. When you’re connecting with such a devoted, and dare we say, rabid, fanbase such as gamers, this is especially true.

Also, gamers can smell a badly executed PR stunt a mile off. The ill advised PSP campaign, alliwantforxmasisapsp.com, is one perfect example of this. The site was purportedly created by a Playstation fan, who wanted, more than anything, to get his hands on the newly released PSP. Fans soon smelt a rat though, as the production values were suspiciously high, and the relaxed, ‘hip’ language of the blogger in question was far too forced. Sony were probably hoping for a viral success to rival ilovebees.com, but the joke fell rather flat with gamers.

Another example of a company misjudging their fans is Acclaim’s PR behaviour leading to the company’s bankruptcy in 2004. Following the death of arcade culture, Acclaim tried to grab the attention of gamers but in a crass and rather tasteless way. Memorable stunts included releasing BMX XXX, an X rated BMX game that flopped when gamers saw just how badly made it was, and the offer of a cash prize to anyone who had an ad for Shadow Man: 2econd Coming engraved on a relative’s tombstone. The closure of the company didn’t really come to anyone’s surprise.

The most notorious disasters though, came about due to the complacency of certain companies. Many gamers remember the launch of the PS3, where head execs at Sony simply expected buyers to shell out the money without question. Social media highlighted this again after the launch of Duke Nukem Forever. After several scathing reviews of the title were posted, Jim Redner, head of the Redner Group, threw somewhat of a temper tantrum on Twitter. He stated that he would be deciding who would be allowed to review future titles and who wouldn’t, based on ‘today’s venom’. Gamers quickly picked up on this public blacklisting threat and made their displeasure known. Eventually, Redner’s comments lost them their biggest client, 2K games.

In hindsight, it seems that #PeachMonth was tame compared to some the biggest blunders committed in the industry. The biggest problems seem to be that the PR companies involved still subscribe to the image of gamers as the basement dwelling, anti social teenagers which we all know now isn’t true. Hopefully though, they have learned from these incidents and slightly off colour comments about Princess Peach will be the worst that will happen from here on out.

Bioshock on iOS: Triple A Developers Have Their Eye on the Mobile Market

Earlier this week, 2K revealed that one of their most popular titles, Bioshock, will be coming to the iOS as a full port. An announcement video was made with Casey Coleman from 2K, and Ryan McCaffrey from IGN.  The pair showed the 2007 game working on an iPad, which while running at a slower frame rate than the console or PC versions, was still looking fully functional.

The player will control the game using ‘virtual thumbsticks’, that are located in the lower corners of the screen. IGN reported that in their playthrough, they worked surprisingly well, but wondered whether they would clutter up the screen too much on an iPhone. The game will be an uncut, full version of the original game, and will be available this summer. Coleman said the game would be a ‘premium’ title, so its price has been estimated at about $10 to $20 in the US. To the relief of many wary gamers, it has been confirmed that the player will pay one price upfront, rather than paying through microtransactions.

Now the game has been announced, it will be interesting to see whether Bioshock will really take off on mobile devices. On console and PC, it was a massive hit, picking up scores of awards and loyal fans. Will the dystopian grandeur of it be done full justice on an iPhone screen?

It’s not the first Triple A title to be given the mobile treatment. GTA titles such as GTA III and San Andreas have both been released on the Apple App Store, to mostly favourable reviews. Plenty of Triple A developers have been getting in on the action too, with Square Enix announcing their FF7 spinoff G-Bike game, and Warner Bros. Interactive releasing Batman: Arkham Origins as a mobile companion to their Batman: Arkham games.

The addition of Triple A games on mobile markets was predicted earlier this year, when Yube Abe from Square Enix remarked that the technology for mobile devices was progressing so rapidly that it would be the next logical step for the market. With mobile gaming fast becoming a serious contender for gamers’ time, it makes sense that Triple A developers are now working on getting their titles onto these devices.

However, would these kind of games work on mobile devices, realistically? Every successful title on mobile, such as Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga, and their ilk, have been highly addicting, brightly coloured apps, that could be played in the five minutes you have to wait in the queue at the supermarket. Being on mobile, they’ve successfully created their own niche where they can be played and then put away in the space of a few minutes. Games such as Bioshock were designed for longer, more extended play. The ‘timekiller’ nature of most mobile games doesn’t really translate well to ported console titles. Games such as Bioshock succeed as they draw the player into another universe with carefully executed atmosphere and art design, as well as good game design in general. It’s very hard to see 2K pulling this off on an iPad.

That said though, this could be a new vision of mobile gaming in the future. The favourable reception of titles such as the GTA games on iOS show that there is an audience for ‘retro’ titles on mobile platforms. If Bioshock succeeds, possibly this will pave the way for brand new, custom developed Triple A mobile games to be created. If nothing else, they would be intriguing to see.

Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood Hits the A List

An app based around the life and work of a famous reality star? It sounds as if it just shouldn’t work but in fact, Kim Kardashian Hollywood has been racking up the fans and praise like nobody’s business. The mobile game tasks the player with creating a new Hollywood star, working and dating their way through the ranks until they reach A List celebrity status. The game, by Glu Games, is a departure for the studio. In the past, they’ve specialised in hyper masculine games such as Big Time Gangsta and Deer Hunter Challenge, but Hollywood has made the studio a household name.

The centres around the player’s character, who is a lowly retail worker until they’re spotted by Kim Kardashian and she offers to set the player up with an agent. She acts as a sort fairy godmother, offering up opportunities to increase your standing in Hollywood by attending parties, posing for photoshoots, or dating eligible bachelors or bachelorettes. For such a simple concept, the game has been incredibly well received.

The game has garnered mostly positive response, including bags of five star reviews on the Apple App Store. Players have said it’s ‘amazing’ and ‘addicting’. The stock of Glu Games has gone up by 42% on the stock market, where mobile gaming has traditionally struggled to find success.

In fact, the ‘addicting’ comment shows up over and over again. This writer says the game was so good, they had to stop playing it, and piles upon piles of words have been written about how people can’t stop playing, and their frustration when their ‘energy’, the game’s currency, doesn’t regenerate fast enough.

The game has certainly created mobile gaming fans from a demographic where traditionally, there may not be many at all. It’s also created its fair share of controversy. A US government twitter account accidentally sent out an automatically generated tweet about the game, much to the amusement of its followers. When the game went down following technical problems, many players began tweeting pleas for the game to be fixed to Kim Kardashian herself, rather than Glu Games. Also, there was brief outrage when a Buzzfeed writer found a racial slur in the game, which turned out to be the result of a downloadable ‘hack’ being used for the game, and so wasn’t the work of the developers themselves.

For a game that was initially passed off by many as a throw away novelty, it certainly has become a runaway hit. The game is currently making up to $700,000 a day, with $1.6 million being made in its first five days of release. Whether the game can keep this up though, is another matter entirely. There has been talk of adding other characters to the game, including Kim’s sisters Kourtney and Khloe, to keep players interested. Otherwise, time will only tell if Kim’s star can keep this game popular.

Level Editors to Exploding Goats: The Joy of Simulation Games

Simulation games are currently enjoying a resurgence of popularity with the current generation of gamers, if the virtual shelves of your online retailer are anything to go by. From the staggeringly popular Sims franchise, to the staggeringly bonkers Goat Simulator, there’s a game out there for nearly every sim fan imaginable. In the world of Triple A titles where the player is nearly always handed a gun and asked to blast their way through problems, it’s almost impossible to imagine that meticulously planning and putting together something in a sim game could deliver as much pleasure. Just how did sims become so popular?

The history of sim games is difficult to determine, as the definition of a sim game itself is constantly in flux. Is any ‘life management’ game, such as Animal Crossing, classed as a sim, or must the game be more realistic in what it’s asking the player to do? No one has defined a clear answer, so the label of ‘simulation’ remains far reaching in the gaming world.

Some of the earlier sim titles are the ones remembered with the most fondness. One of the earliest titles, Sim City, was created when Sims patriarch Will Wright discovered the level editor in his game Raid on Bungeling Bay, was more fun to play with than the game itself. After developing the editor into a game itself, he became a founding member of Maxis and created a sim juggernaut.

The founding of Maxis lead on to arguably the most famous sim games, simply titled The Sims, in 2000. The game allowed the player to control a virtual dollhouse and micromanage their ‘sim’ peoples’ lives, and spawned a gigantic following. The original game sold over 6.3 million copies worldwide, and became the most popular PC game of all time. With the fourth installment recently announced, the game is still hugely popular.

Sporting simulations have been surprisingly popular too, with the Football Manager and Championship Manager games constantly popping up in ‘Top PC Sims’ lists. Surely sports fans would rather play a game that lets them get involved with the sport itself? Having consulted with a handy nearby Football Manager fan, he commented that the thrill lay in the building of your own team, creating a squad to your own specifications and guiding them through the football season.

This is possibly the appeal of sims as a whole. No other game genre lets the player have so much intricate control over their game. Anyone playing The Sims, for example, will revel in having total control over what their Sim wears, eats, and does. They decide exactly who that Sim is, what they do for a living, and even who they marry. It truly is a God simulator in every sense.

This may help explain the rise of ultra realistic sims, such as Euro Truck Simulator, Train Simulator, and Car Mechanic Simulator. These games take mundane tasks, such as driving a truckload of powdered milk to Brussels, and have you carry them out in intricate detail. They seem dull as dishwater, but have proved to be massive hits. Released by indie developers, these are games that never would have been created by Triple A developers due to their lack of drama and explosions, but suck the player in all the same. (This writer may well have harboured a secret Euro Truck Simulator obsession for a while…).

These, in turn, have given way to the simulator parodies. Truly, if sim games are being parodied, they have indeed made it as a genre. They started out as jabs at the genre with games like Blue Screen Simulator being submitted to Steam Greenlight, and Surgeon Simulator being released as a hilarious take on virtual surgery. However, the sim parody has reached new heights with the bonkers Goat Simulator. Initially created as a joke trailer on Youtube, Goat Simulator was made for real when thousands of viewers clamoured for the exploding scenery and satanic goats they saw.

The sim genre shows no sign of slowing down. Franchise behemoths like The Sims continue on into the current gen of gaming, and thanks to indie developers and online services such as Steam, there will always be a stream of hyper realistic and intricate offerings to choose from. After all, everyone likes to play God on occasion.

Steam: The Fat Cat It’s Ok to Like

Anyone who’s a gamer, or is friends with gamers, is now probably aware of Steam and what they do. Mostly, they’ll know of their legendary summer sales and cries of ‘Steam took all my money!’ from eager fans of the platform. It certainly is one of the most popular ways of buying games recently, with up to 75% of all PC games being bought through it, as claimed in October 2013. So, what is Steam exactly, and how did it get so big?

Steam began life in 2002, after Valve, developers of Counter-Strike, noticed that the game suffered issues with updating, which could often leave the online user base disconnected for several days at  time. The company decided to create a platform that could automatically update their games, as well as implementing better anti hacking and anti cheat measures. After approaching several high companies to create the platform for them, the decision was made to create it themselves in house.

Nowadays, the client is much more than a distribution platform. Steam offers social features, such as in game chat, communities, and friend groups. They also have developed their own achievement system, and offer cloud saving for all games. In addition to this, there are also the Steam Workshop and Steam Greenlight services, that allow for user made content to be made available through their service.

It’s easy to see how the service became as popular as it is. It offers a much simpler alternative to currently ailing brick and mortar game sellers, by being convenient, simple, and offering a much more unified and often cheaper service. It appears to have created an even easier way of buying games online than buying from online retailers such as Amazon, since the user simply downloads the game they buy, rather than waiting on a delivery of a hard copy.

There doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of competition online to Steam either, which helps explain its success. EA tried to create a competing service called Origin, which through all it’s games are exclusively sold, but issues with dubious account suspensions and accusations of spying on users, has stopped it from becoming as successful as it’s counterpart. There’s also GOG.com, an online service that offers downloads of classic games, but as they offer such a limited selection of new titles, they aren’t really a comparable service to Steam.

This doesn’t mean that Steam hasn’t seen its share of controversy, however. During its initial release, it was required to be installed with copies of Half Life 2, prompting discussions about software ownership, software requirements, and overloaded servers. When the Steam Greenlight feature was released, many false and inappropriate submissions flooded the system, prompting Steam to install a $100 charge to submit on the site, which would be donated to Child’s Play.

With such a massive share of the marketplace and ease of use, Steam has been described as ‘the fat cat it’s ok to like’. It could be argued that one platform owning so much of the marketplace could be dangerous for the gaming industry, but at the moment gamers seem to be happy with the way the service is ran. With such influence in the industry, not to mention their huge sales (last we heard Don’t Starve was being offered at 75% off), they won’t be going away any time soon.

Breaking News: Gaming Not the Danger The Sun Says It Is

The Sun, British tabloid staple, has recently made waves by publishing a piece titled: ‘Playing Games as Addictive as Heroin’. The article claims that the UK is ‘in the grip of a gaming addiction’, citing three suicides that could be linked to Call of Duty, and case studies where certain players spend large amounts of money on mobile games, or spend hours online playing. It also cites the research of Dr Mark Griffiths, who provides a ten point list to help determine whether the reader could be addicted to gaming themselves.

This sounds pretty normal for the tabloid, but the story became interesting when Dr Griffiths himself came out on Eurogamer and debunked the article. He has claimed that most of the article is simply ‘incorrect’, and jumping on the negative aspects of gaming in order to create a lurid headline.

In the rebuttal, the doctor states that addiction to anything, whether it is gaming, drugs or anything else, will play out in mostly the same way. An addiction will take over someone’s life and drown all other responsibilities, hobbies and relationships. The form the addiction takes is somewhat irrelevant, as whatever method the addicted person uses, it’s going to follow a similar path.

This is certainly not the first time there has been panic over gaming in the media. Neurology Now published a mostly negative piece called ‘How do video games affect the developing brains of children and teens?’, glossing over the fact that anything and everything will affect the brain to some degree, and that that process doesn’t end when a child grows to adulthood. There are scores of scholarly articles online about the subject of gaming addiction. There are always stories in the media about gaming ruining lives, such as this woman who stole £1000 to fund her Candy Crush addiction, or this man who killed his five week old child as they were interrupting his game of Assassin’s Creed 3.

However, we rarely hear of the benefits of gaming. There has been evidence that gaming can increase multitasking skills, increase brain size, or even help you escape being attacked by a moose.

We don’t hear these stories as put simply, they don’t sell. No one wants to hear about how gaming can improve the world, when it’s easier to believe that kids are staying indoors and becoming antisocial because of it (No one tell these people about Minecraft). The Sun knew that when they printed that headline it would generate thousands of sales and clicks on their website. By talking about it here, I’m only contributing to their success, in a way.

In reality, everything is bad in excess. Any hobby or interest that begins to consume your whole life is unhealthy, whether it’s gaming, books, TV, or anything else. We’ve all been guilty of obsessing over something for a while, as anyone who’s binge watched a show on Netflix can attest to, but eventually you’ll come back to real life.

Gaming is just the latest in a long line of things that have been deemed a threat to society, simply because of their novelty. Rap music, the film industry, and the internet have all come under fire for similar reasons. Eventually, something new will come along and steal gaming’s crown as the ‘dangerous new fad’. Until then, we should read everything with a critical eye.

Twin Galaxies, Mario and a Big Pile of Cash: Gaming World Records

Last week a brand new gaming record was set, with Youtube user Blubbler racing through the entirety of Super Mario Bros. in just 4 minutes and 57 seconds. Their feat in speedrunning has impressed gamers all over the world, but they certainly aren’t the first person to attempt to break world records in gaming.

The first person known to take an interest in records was Walter Day, who, in 1981, spent four months visiting video game arcades and gathering information about top scores for popular gaming cabinets. After doing so, he opened his own arcade named Twin Galaxies, and kept updated records on top scores on the Twin Galaxies National Scoreboard. The records were so popular that they began to be recorded in gaming publications such as Video Games and Joystik. Twin Galaxies also began a longtime partnership with the Guinness Book of World Records. Competitions were regularly held in the early 80’s in order to fight for a chance of becoming a real life record holder, in cities all over the US.

In a pre internet era, making the National Scoreboard became a highly sought after honour. Even in recent times, competing is almost a full time job. Documentaries have been made about people on the quest for top scores, such as Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade, and The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

Competitions also gave rise to the US National Video Game Team in 1983, who toured the US competing in the 1983 Video Game Masters Tournament, the results of which were published in the Guinness Book of World Records. The group were arguably one of the first teams of professional video game athletes to ever compete.

E sports have helped create a whole new genre of world records in gaming. Korean player Jaedong holds the records for highest earnings when he won $522,961.72 competing in Starcraft: Brood War. The finals for the League of Legends Season 3 World Championships were watched by 32 million people, the largest ever audience for an e sporting event. As e sports look to rival traditional sports, they will most certainly break even more records in the near future.

Now, with the internet making reaching out to other gamers worldwide so easy, record attempts are being made every day. Websites such as Record Setter attempt to collate the attempts and records broken all over the world. Slightly bizarre records have also been set, such as the world’s largest video game controller, youngest pro gamer, and largest collection of Super Marios.

The joy of attempting to break gaming records lies in the opportunity to show off your gaming skills to a large audience, and online the audience is larger than you can ever imagine. This holds true even back in the early 80’s, when winning meant having your name on the Twin Galaxies National Scoreboard. After all, everyone likes the feeling of being the best at something.

Grim Fandango and the Double Edged Sword of Nostalgia

One of the biggest announcements of E3 this year was that Grim Fandango was due a current gen remake for the PS4. Fans of the classic LucasArts title were delighted with the news, but others were not as keen. The announcement continues the trend of popular titles from the past being remade, rebooted, or simply used over and over again. Nostalgia is now big business in the gaming industry, but how has this come about?

It’s no secret that the average gaming population is rapidly ageing. The average age of a gamer is around 35 years old, and far from the still pervasive stereotype of the teenager playing alone in their bedroom. Since this average gamer is older, it stands to reason that they are just as susceptible to the nostalgia bug as anybody else. We see older franchises being rebooted in other forms of media, especially film. When films like Jem are being made for a new audience, and classic children’s books are receiving brand new instalments, we can see that there’s clearly a market for what we remember fondly from our own childhoods.

This is where nostalgia gaming comes in. Developers aren’t shy when it comes to mining the past for shortcuts to win gamers’ hearts. Tomb Raider in particular keeps coming back again and again. There’s a small window of time in the mid to late 90’s where Lara Croft was truly beloved as a character, and the games hailed for their originality and exciting gameplay. Now though, over ten games in and yet two more announced at E3, the franchise shows no sign of slowing. The games sell in their millions because of the name Lara Croft, and partly because of the affection older players hold towards the character.

Tomb Raider isn’t the only franchise being wheeled out again and again, though. At this year’s E3 alone, we saw new instalments for games such as Crackdown, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

It’s been argued that developers go after the nostalgia angle because it’s safe. They know that gamers like it, so they simply bring it back and make more of it. It’s not difficult to believe when games now cost millions upon millions of dollars to make, and need teams the size of small cities to make them. When a failure can literally shut down a developer, relying on what’s known by the player is seen as the best option.

This is not to say that nostalgia is necessarily a bad thing, when used in moderation. Who hasn’t seen something from their youth unexpectedly and been excited about it? It’s always fun to return to the stories and characters from our past. However, due to the spiralling costs of Triple A development, it seems that the people taking the real risks are the indies, out on nearly all platforms now, but especially PC and mobile. Ironically, it’s these people who are creating the cultural icons of tomorrow. In fact, some of them are already burned into the public consciousness, especially the characters from Minecraft. Who hasn’t heard of the hissing menace of the Creeper by now?

The industry is shifting in a huge way, and one wonders whether the Triple A developers can hold out that much longer the way they are currently working. It’s cool to see something from your childhood pop up again, but it’s even cooler to discover something totally new and original.