Close up of boy holding video games controller

Five Changes for a Better Video Games Industry

Given that the video games industry is now the second-biggest sector in entertainment, beaten only by television, more people are getting into this previously niche hobby than ever before. Affordable consoles like the Nintendo Switch and subscription game libraries like Xbox‘s Game Pass and Playstation Plus have allowed the casual consumer like myself access to the latest and greatest games the industry has to offer.

Though I still consider myself a casual gamer™, thanks to my distinct lack of skills, I spend a significant portion of my time playing and discussing video games. As other newbies join the ranks of the gaming community, the same problems seem to crop up over and over again for the uninitiated. These issues range from quality of life issues and personal preferences all the way to the very serious employee abuse issues that are destroying the industry from the inside out. While some of these clearly need to be addressed sooner than others, here are five changes that I want to see from the games industry in the near future.

All the Accessibility

With the recent release of the latest offering from FromSoftware, Elden Ring, hitting the shelves this week, gamers have reignited the endless debate over difficulty settings. While I understand the ‘Get Good’ crowd’s desire to stay true to the developer’s vision, adding custom difficulty sliders only make the games more accessible to a broader range of people, not to mention allowing disabled gamers to join in the fun without requiring as much expensive specialist equipment, like the hardware provided for free by charities like SpecialEffect.

Titles like The Last of Us and the newer Horizon: Forbidden West have raised the bar for accessibility in triple-A gaming by adding a litany of options that allow you to create a truly customizable experience each time you play the game. If more titles had similar settings, it would widen the range of available games to lower-skilled gamers like me.

Gunless Runs

I have a real problem with aiming in video games. No matter the game or type of weapon, if it’s a ranged attack that requires me to move and aim, I am unable to make the shot. Too many modern triple-A games force you to use guns to complete the game, whether during the entire game or during scripted shooting encounters. This often means I am forced to beg my partner for help or never see the game’s ending!

Because shooting games are easy to understand and easy to make, many of today’s titles incorporate shooting mechanics despite the successes of Spiderman and God of War, proving there is an appetite for melee-focused combat. I know that gunplay is an integral part of these games, and my partner assures me that the guns do, in fact, feel different from each other. Still, to me, these on-rails shooting segments just feel repetitive and samey and simply leave me acutely aware that I will likely be stuck here for hours at a minimum.

Rather than using the same gameplay loop in different settings and skins, I’d prefer developers to focus on different kinds of gaming experiences that allow for a more diverse range of gameplay actions. I won’t even mind if you leave the guns in, as long as I have the option not to use them! 

Bring the Couch Back to Co-op Games

I don’t know when we all decided that online multiplayer was the only way to socially game, but I didn’t get the memo. Besides the Lego games holding down the fort for us collaborative gamers, couch co-op titles are becoming a dying breed in the gaming industry, making it harder and harder to find new options each year.

Since my partner is very good at most video games, I want to play alongside him so he can help me through the difficult sections and have an enjoyable experience together. Clearly, I am not alone in this opinion since the winning Game of the Year recipient at the 2021 Game Awards was Hazelight Studios’ It Takes Two, a cooperative action-adventure journey designed with gaming couples in mind.

I’d recommend it highly to those of you who also like to have a player two, as well as Divinity: Original Sin 2 and the aforementioned Lego games from TT Studios.

Bring Back Demos

Gaming is an expensive habit. Besides the hardware needed to actually play the things, the games themselves routinely cost around £70 each, and that’s not including any DLCs or required subscription packages. I often hesitate to buy games that look interesting because of the attached price tag. If more titles offered free demos, I’d be way more likely to buy the thing if I knew I liked it!

I remember when there were specifically created demo experiences for most games that allowed you to experiment with the different kinds of controls and environments that you’d encounter in the full game. They were so common; you’d even find them in your cereal boxes! The rise of ‘Let’s Plays’ on Youtube provided games companies with an excuse to stop making demos since there were no other ways to see gameplay before purchasing.

However, there’s still something to be said for being able to physically play the game yourself before having to hand over your hard-earned cash. There are some demos to be found in the wild today—I find Nintendo and the PC-gaming platform Steam to be the best at this.

The Elephant in the Games Room

It’s no secret that the biggest problem plaguing the games industry today is the rampant abuse of its employees. From the disgusting reports of sexual abuse at companies like Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft to the endless stories of ‘crunch culture’, where employees are required to work endless hours of overtime for little pay to finish a game on time for the release date. The top-down company culture of mistreatment at nearly every major video games company majority is worrying, to say the least.

Many gamers try to turn a blind eye to the plights of employees, preferring to focus on products rather than the industry. However, when a games company has a singular focus on release date and refuses to delay the launch to ensure a better quality game, the resulting crunch leads to far worse games for consumers — Cyberpunk 2077 or Fallout 76, anyone? Every gamer should be concerned about this because improving the conditions for developers will only result in better products for us to enjoy.

Outlets have reported that many top games developers have nurtured a “Frat House” style environment. No wonder we keep getting the same grizzled male protagonist with a gun storyline in triple-A games! It’s a simple equation: more diverse employees will result in more diverse stories as new perspectives from underrepresented groups make their way to the main stage. By turning the spotlight on these stories, we can attract more people to the gaming world and encourage more innovation in this space – there’s no downside.

In Conclusion

I hold zero power over the games industry. A bunch of billionaires that refuse to see their audience as anything other than walking wallets have divvied it up. It seems like many developers are stuck thinking that players are still the traditional straight, white, male “gamer boy” demographic despite recent research showing that 83% of US teens gamers are African American and that 45% of all gamers are women. Likely because the majority of developers fit into this category.

As fans of the medium, we should encourage studios to focus on creating these new and unique experiences with captivating stories that we haven’t seen before if they want to keep our interest and our dollars.

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