Game Clones

New video games are about as original as any other medium, whether it be TV, movies, or books: you have a mixed bag of originality and “clones”.  The real question is, who cares?  If you list your ten favorite movies or books, odds are a few of them are pretty similar in formula, concept, and execution.  Original ideas are a huge plus, but it’s the quality of the journey that counts.  If they cloned it well (and typically made it their own), you have a fine piece of work on your hands.

Most of your favorite video games are probably so-called clones, if not direct sequels.  Did you care that when Super Mario World came out, it was essentially Mario Bros with better graphics and a few new items?  Of course not.  Were you excited about the innovation that went into the astounding Mario 64?  Of course.  Were you equally excited about a new side-scrolling Mario being released for the Wii?  Absolutely.

Grand Theft Auto 3 was a landmark for its gameplay, maturity, style, and, arguably most importantly, its “sandbox” capabilities (the ability to go off-story and just roam around exploring and all sorts of other fun).  Did you moan at the even better sequels?  Did you pick up a “clone” of the game that was actually just really fun and rue the day video games became more popular because now you have TWO good games?  When other games from all genres furthered the sandbox idea, were you truly disappointed at their lack of originality?

And what’s so great about originality anyway?  Okay, granted: A lot!  However, isn’t it just as easy (if not easier) to think of the mass of games that were dripping with “originality” but little else?  Sometimes the game was abysmal from the start, sometimes you thought it was awesome until the novelty quickly wore off.  Mirror’s Edge looks nice, and makes for perhaps the best Demo you could hope to download.  If you shell out a hard earned sixty bucks for it though, you’ll likely stop playing it within two days.  Too often games that try so hard to be original end up missing out on the more important aspects to gaming, such as fun and cohesiveness.  They make their mark for being the first to implement a new idea, and thankfully some other wise developer clones this idea and merges it with a clone of another game and makes something absolutely awesome.

You can be original without being something the world’s never seen.  You can be a completely worthwhile gaming experience without being very original at all.  So please, let’s not pressure developers, directors, and authors into giving up on our favorite formulas and concepts.  They’ll keep surprising us, and we’ll keep loving it.