Lately I’ve been wondering why contrarian ideas do so well in video game format.
First, let's define what a contrarian idea is. It’s one that goes against the popular consensus. In the video game industry, this might mean making a game that is different from what is currently popular. For example, a contrarian idea might be to make a game that is more difficult or one that is more story-driven or even a game which combines seemingly incompatible genres to create new play styles and mechanics such as Hifi Rush or Yokus Island Express.
So why do contrarian ideas for video games often lead to success? Well, one reason is that they offer players something new and different. In an industry that is often dominated by sequels and reboots, a game that takes a completely different approach can be a breath of fresh air. These games can also attract a wider audience than traditional games, as they may appeal to people who don't typically play video games.
Contrarian ideas can be more challenging. When a game is more difficult, it can give gamers a sense of accomplishment when they finally beat it. This can be a very rewarding experience for gamers.
Contrarian ideas can also be more memorable. When a game is different it is more likely to stick in people's minds. This can be a great way for a game to build a following.
It’s a huge risk to make a game which goes contrary to the proven formula, which is why we see so many sequels and reboots these days.
Let's take a look at some examples of contrarian video games that have been hugely successful. One such game is Minecraft. When it was first released, Minecraft was unlike any other game on the market. Instead of a linear storyline, Minecraft offered players an open-world sandbox where they could create their own worlds and explore to their heart's content. This concept was a huge departure from the more structured games of the time, but it proved to be a massive success. Today, Minecraft is one of the best-selling games of all time, with over 200 million copies sold.
Another example is Among Us. This game, which was released in 2018, tasks players with identifying the impostors among their crewmates in a spaceship. The game's simple graphics and social deduction gameplay were a far cry from the more graphically intensive games of the time. However, the game quickly became a hit, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was a popular way for people to connect and socialise online.
Celeste also comes to mind. This is a platformer that challenges players to navigate through a series of increasingly difficult levels. However, what sets Celeste apart from other platformers is its focus on mental health. The game's story explores themes such as anxiety and depression, and it has been praised for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of these issues. While this may seem like an unconventional approach for a video game, it has resonated with players and critics alike, with many praising the game's emotional depth and storytelling.
Dark Souls is a very difficult game, and it has been praised for its challenging gameplay. It’s a great example of a game that has been successful by going against the grain.
The final example is Undertale. Praised for its unique story and characters with a focus on player choice rather than forced combat in every encounter.
In conclusion, contrarian ideas for video games can lead to success because they offer something new and different to players. Many games have defied expectations and become hugely successful, showing that there is always room in the industry for games that challenge the status quo. As we move forward, we can expect to see more and more games that push the boundaries of what we have come to expect.
- Robert Henning, Computer Games Development Teacher