We've often wondered what would happen if we locked some of The Escapist's most opinionated contributors in a room and let them talk about whatever they liked. Until we can find a room with strong enough locks (and get sufficient insurance to cover the inevitable destruction), there's always email.

This week, MovieBob, Yahtzee, and James Portnow tackle the question: What's the current state of console gaming?

imageMovieBob: From my end, I'd say the state of console gaming is "fractured" - if I had to limit it to one blanket term, anyway.

I don't know that there's ever been a point where there's been such disparity between what consoles are capable of in terms of innovation and what they're being asked to do in those same terms by the actual games - or that said innovation is happening so overwhelmingly on the console side. What I mean is: The three main players - PS3, 360 and Wii are all remarkably versatile devices in their own right, but much of that versatility seems to be going to waste. To use only what I'd call the most egregious example: You only need to look at what the homebrew hacking/modding community is doing with the Kinect to know that it's an impressive (if buggy) piece of tech with HUGE possibilities, but right now it's mostly being used to make HD versions of stuff that was out on the Wii three years ago.

Most of that you can probably lay on the developers, but the audience is "helping" by not really demanding much innovation in the first place. And I'm not talking about purposefully backward-looking stuff like New Super Mario Bros. or the new/"old" Mega Man titles; or even easy-targets like EA Sports selling people a $60 roster update every year. I'm talking about there being next to no sense any more of a gaming culture that somewhat united all the various genres and subgenres under the "videogame" umbrella and drove innovation by at least encouraging people to go outside their comfort zone. You can pretty much build a wall around whatver your gaming likes of the moment and live there, cut off, indefinitely. Lack of new input = lack of desire for change = lack of impetus for developers to innovate.

imageYahtzee: It's true that consoles are capable of some pretty amazing things these days, but the same can't be said for developers, who are squashy humans who still need time to go to the bathroom. Game development on the cutting edge is more of a rich boy's club than it's ever been before, and it's no longer just about being able to afford the best rendering technology. The sheer amount of man hours that go into just a single level, between high-resolution textures, detailing, character animation, without even getting into gameplay or story design, is testicle-shrivellingly daunting for any team. It drives independent developers to more manageable platforms like XBLA or mobiles. And that's why you're not going to see much innovation on the triple-A side of things, since innovation in almost every creative industry drives the independent rather than the mainstream industry, which inevitably becomes more concerned with the aforementioned $60 roster update, the crankin' of the guaranteed investment return sequel machine.

Sometimes I have a horrible feeling that creatively, console gaming peaked with the last generation, when consoles were powerful enough to bring one's creative vision to life but development wasn't as arduous. The PS2 with its great third party support still has, to my mind, the best (and biggest) library of any console, and is still one of the biggest selling games machines in the world.

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