If you’re like me, born in the eighties or perhaps early nineties, you may remember a time where Role Playing Games, aside those of the tabletop variety, were both extremely popular and extremely Japanese, whether on home consoles or even the PC. That turn-based, spread-sheet style of gameplay might have become the dominant format, infecting titles to this very day, if not for a little company called “Bioware,” which released the RPG title “Baldur’s Gate” when I was still a source of constant agony and occasional amusement to my parents. Since that time, up to 2012, I have purchased and played to boredom every title Bioware has released, save for three, which you could probably quite easily guess.
There just wasn’t anyone else releasing the kind of content they were working on, a unique style of Western RPG that would ultimately prove highly influential, which typically molded turn-based mechanics with a real-time presentation. Made the games feel a great deal less stiff, and many of these titles were incredibly nonlinear, very notably the original Baldur’s Gate. People talk about sandbox environments in our contemporary titles, but nearly out the door you could fuck up straight down the southern edge of the sword coast and get kissed to death by bleeding fucking nymphs. I’d say it was something of a beginner’s trap, but the game was filled with potential instant deaths, being faithful to its D&D source material.
So what went wrong? How did Bioware go from the Baldur’s Gate series, which is one of the most respected in video game history, all the way down to the punch-out ending of Mass Effect Three and whatever the bloody hell all the titles of Dragon Age were supposed to be? The particulars have most assuredly be answered by people more knowledgeable than I, but I do want to add a few little words of wisdom. No-one buys a videogame expecting to be lectured on their political orthodoxy. They don’t buy entertainment expecting it to be art either; they expect it to be entertaining. If it can do both, that’s marvelous, but an entertainer should never lose sight of his essential objective, and those predominantly concerned with the injection of political invective need to go join the legacy media before the whole shebang utterly collapses.