I play a one-note trumpet when it comes to video games, but since no-one's listening, I'll put it to my lips yet again. I love playing video games, especially "shooters". I enjoy the sense of discovery that comes with rounding a corner, and the thrill of teasing out reaction patterns. But I believe the gaming industry reached critical mass with Half-Life and The Sims. The real-dollar decline in gaming began with Halo and the XBox required to play it. With The Godfather and Sony's Playstation 3 it's sinking fast, and I don't think it's likely to recover anytime soon.
If you look at the game templates coming out for XBox 360 and Sony Playstation 3, you'll find little of substance to differentiate them from Berzerk, the quarter-gobbling monster of the 80s. The Berzerk template was two-dimensional; you steered a stick-man through corridors and shot robots before they shot you. Someone -- probably not the programmer -- made an awful lot of money with that game (garnering a small fortune from yours truly, for starters). It worked, in other words, so that's the template -- second-person shooter -- the game industry has run with.
Flash forward 26 years. The new "bots" are more sophisticated in their behavior, and the overall playing landscape is more or less three-dimensional. But that's it. Same basic template. The end.
There are a few other templates, to be sure -- the virtual pilot, team sports, hand-to-hand fighting, etc. -- but they've all been around for 25 years or longer. We are talking about an industry that has delivered increasingly more spectacular bells and whistles, while keeping the baseline product unchanged for over a quarter century. The automobile industry might be able to coast on its laurels for that length of time, but anyone trying to pull the same stunt with computers is begging for a spectacular fall.
If you eavesdrop on industry conversations, you'll overhear a fair bit of chatter over how to make games that appeal to women. This is a good start, but the pitches are telling: a popular scenario with the suits is a Tomb Raider-type game with a Brad Pitt look-alike.
Wrong, all wrong.
If you want to know what the most addictive video game for women is, I'll tell you for free: Tetris. I don't know a single woman with the capacity to resist. I've played Tetris; I've enjoyed Tetris; I've even been a Tetris freak. But women put me to shame. They'll play it for hours. Then, when they finally pull themselves away, they'll stare at you with an unusual intensity. You might flatter yourself into thinking it's your Axe bodyspray, but the fact is they're staring at the gaps between your ears and your shirt collar and deciding what algorhithmic shape best fits that space.
I have got absolutely no theory as to why Tetris is so huge with women; I'm just here to pound the pulpit and say, if a programmer or developer is truly interested in keeping the gaming industry an economic engine that fires on all cylinders, they'll leave the shooter freaks to figure it out for themselves, and concentrate on producing the next Tetris.
And good luck to 'em.